Tuesday, September 8, 2020

WHEN I WAS YOU :: Amber Garza

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

"Why would I need to call my therapist just because I made a new friend?" Kelly Medina is affronted when her best friend shows concern over her interest in a new young woman in town with a baby. But "it was simple curiosity," Kelly tells herself, "that's all. Nothing sinister or odd. This was normal. Completely normal." Amber Garza's thrilling and clever When I Was You quickly delves into why Kelly's curiosity may not be "normal" and then doles out twists and turns at the perfect pace, leading up to a fantastic conclusion.

Kelly feels like a ghost. Her beloved son, Aaron, went off to college. Her husband, Rafael, returns to Folsom less and less from his job in the Bay Area. Then an errant phone call from her former pediatrician's office alerts Kelly there is another Kelly Medina in town. Instantly intrigued, feeling she's found a younger version of herself, Kelly can't help but investigate and ultimately finagle a way to meet new Kelly.

Writing from original Kelly's perspective, Garza throws tidbit after tidbit that raises questions about original Kelly's state of mind, past behavior and required therapy, Rafael's distance and attitude, and the million-dollar inquiry--who is new Kelly? Garza deftly uses original Kelly's narration to follow an erratic path, forcing the reader to switch assumptions numerous times. Is original Kelly an obsessive stalker with psychiatric issues? Or is new Kelly playing some game with unknown rules and consequences? When I Was You is a gripping psychological barnburner.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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