Replay by Robin Brande
Current Mood: full
Current Song: Somebody I Used To Know cover by Matt Bomer and Darren Criss
While on the operating table, undergoing a simple surgery, 16-year-old Cara died. She was technically dead for forty-two seconds before the doctors revived her. Cara had a near-death experience that was so vivid, so telling, that it shook her to the core. When she went home from the hospital, she was no longer the girl she used to be.
One of the things she can't figure out: why she clearly thought of her classmate David when she woke up. Cara and David aren't in the same social circle: Cara is a popular girl, an athlete, ranked fourth academically in her class; David, at the top of their class, has no friends and no apparent hobbies or claims to fame. When Cara attempts to befriend David, thinking that he will somehow answer her questions, he is suspicious of her sudden kindness and curiosity and chooses to keep her at a distance.
Though Cara initially doesn't tell anyone else about her experience, she immediately takes action. She pulls away from her best friend, with whom she no longer sees eye to eye, and breaks up with her boyfriend, who is greedy for attention and affection in all the wrong ways. With a brace on her injured leg, she can't participate in the sports she once loved so much, and she wonders whether or not her heart is still in the game. Her injury affects her levels of mobility and independence. She must use crutches to get around school, and she must ask her mother and others to drive her around town.
She confides in her 13-year-old sister about some of the things she's thinking and feeling, hoping that Beth will turn out to be a better person than she (Cara) is. Their scenes are to be cherished. Even with all of serious things happening to them, the girls still find delight in sharing secrets and chocolate bars. Beth, a violinist who truly looks up to her older sister, is just the right mix of innocence and selflessness. She is beaming with such joy and loyalty that you'll wish she was your best friend and confidant.
The first novel to introduce me to the idea of reincarnation was Sisters, Long Ago by Peg Kehret, which I utterly loved because it involved Ancient Egypt and sisters. I still recommend the book to this day. All of the books I've read about reincarnation and resurrection have been fictional, and they usually (naturally - or unnaturally, perhaps) involve supernatural elements. Some of these reincarnation stories have seemed more plausible than others. I tend to give those with the fantasy/horror/supernatural elements a little more slack because their worlds have different rules than our real world, and their characters may have different abilities. Example: If the protagonist is part cat and it is explained that he has nine lives, I can buy that within the context of that story.
Robin Brande has chosen a harder, bionic-free, non-paranormal path for her character to walk, and both writer and protagonist do it well. The story and characters of Replay will be staying with me for some time. The book is interesting from page one, which begins with Cara's near-death experience, and the intrigue continues until the end of the book - which, like many good books, is clearly not the end of Cara's story. Like a well-edited movie, some chapters and scenes are longer than others because some moments are fleeting and some encounters are brief, whether or not we wish they were longer. Some chapters are extremely short, and when they are, the brevity is always warranted. Scenes have just the right amount of tension as motives are questioned, questions are answered (or lead to more questions), and characters determine their own truths. Cara heals physically, mentally, and emotionally at a steady pace. (I, meanwhile, raced through the book and refused to let real life interrupt me while I read.) Cara keeps some secrets from the reader, building a mystery in addition to that surrounding her near-death experience...and just you wait until the circumstances of her pre-operation experience are revealed.
Give Replay a try. You may see life and the people you love a little differently when you're done - and you may feel compelled to read the book again and again!
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