Review | Like Never and Always, Ann Aguirre

33224073After a car crash, Liv wakes up in the body of her best friend Morgan. She has no idea what had happened to Morgan, and learns that her own body as Liv didn’t survive the crash. Unable to prove her true identity, she begins to live out Morgan’s life, and learns that before she died, Morgan had been involved in a risky scheme that (without giving too much away) involves an illicit affair and a possible murder. She also finds herself unable to forget her feelings for Liv’s boyfriend Nathan, even as she finds herself developing new and deeply complex feelings for Clay, Morgan’s boyfriend and Nathan’s brother.

Like Never and Always has an incredibly compelling premise that hooked me immediately. Who is the girl in Morgan’s body? Is it Morgan dealing with survivor’s guilt by believing she’s Liv, or is she Liv whose spirit somehow ended up surviving after her body dies? The girl has feelings and memories that seem to suggest she’s right in believing she’s Liv, but as the story progresses, she also gets flashes of memory that only Morgan could have known.

I’ll warn you right off the bat that Aguirre does come up with an explanation that ultimately satisfies her protagonist, but doesn’t quite resolve the mystery as definitively as I’d hoped. The answer isn’t quite developed enough to make this a psychological thriller or science fiction (which is what I’d expected, for some reason), nor is it definitive enough to make this effective as supernatural/horror. Rather, Aguirre is much more interested in the emotional implications on her protagonist, and despite the potentially supernatural or psychological elements, this book feels more like contemporary YA thriller than anything else.

I highly recommend suspending your disbelief, as I did, and simply letting the non-supernatural elements of the story take over, because the payoff is well worth it. I love Liv’s journey into finding her place within this new life, and I love how her new perspective in Morgan’s body made her realize some things she’d never considered as Liv. Most notable, of course, was how awesome a guy Clay really is, but I also appreciated the little touches, such as Liv realizing that she could’ve gotten away with something as Liv, but now as Morgan, she must get used to being the centre of attention and needing to be more circumspect with her appearance and behaviour. I also loved how she wanted to find a balance between fitting in as Morgan was, but also not giving up who she had been as Liv, and I thought Aguirre did a great job of depicting that part of her life.

The thriller-ish elements were a bit underdeveloped. There was the investigation into a potential killer, and the disturbing revelation of what Morgan had put herself through to get at the truth. And there is certainly some practical and emotional payoffs to how Liv handled it when she took over. But overall, I thought the threads of this subplot were resolved too simplistically, and part of me wonders how the story would have been without this subplot, and with its focus firmly on Liv getting used to her new life and the implications of taking over Morgan’s future.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I wish some of the genre elements had been better developed and the mythology around the body swap more deeply explored, but as a whole, I thought the story worked. I was drawn to the character and her story, and I loved the emotional complexity of the new reality she has to deal with.

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Thank you to Raincoast Books for an advance reading copy of this book in exchangefor an honest review.

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