Farrar, Straus & Giroux
January 19, 2016
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A pacy pageturner that asks: Can you be held responsible now for something you did in a previous life?
Fifteen-year-old Ana has a good life--she has friends and a boy she likes and a kind mother--but still, she's haunted by her past; she knows that she lived once before as a girl named Emma, and she still misses her old family. When, by chance in her life now, Ana meets a woman she knew in her previous life, a terrifying memory flashes through her mind of a young girl drowning. Was Emma responsible? And should Ana pay the price? Consumed by guilt, Ana sets out to find out as much as possible about the person she was before and what she had done, only to discover that the family she misses so deeply had dark secrets of its own. To come to terms with her life now, Ana must figure out how to let go of the past.
I love that My Second Life is about Ana, who believes she was Emma in a (very recent) past life. Past lives can make for really fun books. Yet, what I love most about My Second Life (which is mentioned in 'A Note from the Author' at the end of the book), this is not a book about a girl who was a queen in a past life or a famous poet. She was a girl.
A girl who may have done something terribly wrong.
Now, it is up to Ana to explore who Emma was, try to find out what happened and decipher what it all means for Ana now.
I really like that this novel is almost a contemporary, coming-of-age tale . . . except the main character is aware of and remembers some of a past life. Her memories of - or at least knowledge of - her life as Emma has always been a part of Ana's life. It has shaped her relationships and her interactions with the world.
The mystery of My Second Life -- what happened when the little girl drowned and what Emma (now Ana's) role in it all was -- really heightens the more Ana tries to uncover the truth.
The relationship between Ana and Jamie was sweet. It was hard to really see their attraction because it felt like so much of it was based on the friendship that took place before the book started. The times we do see them together in the book, though, are cute and work well.
Ana's mother, Rachel, was a character I could not help but feel so, so, so sorry for. By Ana's own admission, she is a great mother and you can really see that she loves Ana. You can also see the pain Ana's distance causes her and how she tries to understand it all. I wasn't sure I understood Ana still thinking only of Emma's mom as her mother, not Rachel. (Really, even kidnap victims and hostages can develop Stockholm syndrome and this was Ana's whole life.)
The relationships between the adults, their interactions with Ana, the secrets they were keeping, who they were then, who they were now and just all of the different dynamics between their characters (past and present) and with Ana (and Emma) were the strongest part of the novel. Especially towards the end when we start to learn more of what Emma did, what everyone else did that day. Ana did seem to understand things, sometimes, a ways after I thought it had been revealed but all that she is dealing with, the stress, the uncertainty and the guilt from her time as Emma - coupled with some hope and joy now, as Ana, was nicely done.
I look forward to what Faye Bird publishes next (and am adding her to my mental list of YA authors I would definitely read an adult title from, as well).
(That cover is even better now that I've read the book.)
digital copy received, for review, from publisher, via NetGalley