A book review for parents
This teen chick-lit book, first in the series by Meg Cabot is published by Point, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc. and is written for kids ages 15 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
When a plasma screen TV falls on Emerson (Em) Watts and Nikki Howard dies of a brain aneurism, Em's brain is transplanted into Nikki's body. Em must live as 17-year-old Nikki and change from a feminist academic who loves video games to an international model who dropped out of high school.
Em's parents agree to the procedure that saves their daughter's life, and they know they have to give up all rights to her as their daughter. They love their children. Em receives her training in feminism from her mother. Em in Nikki's body takes charge of her own life, but she still lets herself be guided by those who are just as confused as she is. Lulu, who was Nikki's friend, is a liberated minor, and she guides Em as she guided Nikki before. As a result, the girls go to a dance club, stay up late, play with the each other's (and boys') emotions and participate in other activities that show Lulu's immaturity as an authority figure.
Other Belief Systems
Em is a feminist who believes that cheerleading and modeling are demeaning to women. Nikki's best friend, Lulu, believes there was a spirit transfer between Emerson Watts and Nikki Howard. Lulu has another theory that all men fall in love with women, and it's up to women to be responsible about which man they'll let fall deeper in love with them. Em tries following this advice, and it is somewhat successful. The corporation that paid for the transplant believes that money and power rule the world.
God's name is taken in vain throughout the book by most of the main characters. A plasma screen TV is pelted by paintballs, which causes it to fall on Em and destroy her body. Protesters attack Em as Nikki as she and her entourage enter a corporate building for a photo shoot, but security guards keep them safe.
Although Em is trained not to sleep around with boys, she is also told to use a condom if she does. In Nikki's world, sleeping with a boyfriend, someone else's boyfriend and boys that kiss well are commonplace. As Em puts a stop to this in her new life, she finds that Nikki's body still reacts to the kissing as if it were instinctive. Em uses her mind to control her body's urges. When Lulu finds out that Nikki has been sleeping with her boyfriend (before Em is Nikki), Lulu isn't upset. Lulu likes the expensive guilt-gifts her boyfriend gives her as a way to cover his indiscretions.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What do you like about Em's life? What do you like about Nikki's life?
- How is Em changed once she finds herself in Nikki's body?
- Should people put down others for being different (e.g., cheerleaders, academics, models, game players, etc.)?
- How does Em learn this the hard way? How do her feminist ideas change?
- What are some of the ethical problems with whole body transplants, if such things were possible?
- Why does Em have to pretend to be Nikki?
- How is Em's new life as Nikki a lie?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.