Review: Exciting twists, unique twins in ‘I’ll Be You’

“I’ll Be You” by Janelle Brown (Random House)

Although Sam and Elli Logan are identical twins, their personalities are drastically different. Sam loves the spotlight and has a knack for acting. Elli would rather blend into a crowd and just go to school like a normal kid. But with a secret signal they switch places, embodying each other and escaping themselves, if only for a little while.

Janelle Brown’s fifth book, “I’ll Be You,” follows the twins from early childhood, when they are scooped up as Hollywood child actor commodities and made into minor stars, to their 30s, when Sam is a barista with no acting future struggling to stay sober and Elli is a picture of modest success with a husband, a house, and a small florist business.

Gone are the days when Sam and Elli would switch places. In fact, the two haven’t spoken in a year, since Sam last relapsed and finally crossed the line with Elli, leaving their already frayed connection undeniably severed. But when Elli’s weekend retreat turns into a week and then longer — leaving her newly adopted 2-year-old with their parents and telling them to ask Sam for help — Sam knows something is wrong.

Reading Brown’s novel is like eating potato chips: Though there’s little nutritional value, it’s addictively flavored and, after you’ve started, hard to stop until it’s all gone. Generously sprinkled with witty word choice and tasty twists, “I’ll Be You” is a page-turner in spite of itself.

The breaks are meant to add suspense but often fall short. Minor inconsistencies pop up here and there which, although not important enough to impact the plot, are enough to chip at the suspension of disbelief required for a tale as dramatic as “I’ll Be You.” It’s not the kind of novel meant for analysis, rather the kind to read on the beach and pass the time snacking away on it.

Brown’s intriguing characters and plot compensate for the novel’s shortcomings. Sam’s and Elli’s voices are just as unique as their personalities. The storyline gets to a point that must surely be almost the climax, almost the end, but the book is only half-read and abruptly takes a turn with yet another shocking reveal before plunging into Part 2.

These twists have solid set-ups, so the reveals are effective and believable with only a slight stretch of the imagination. The choice to go along with whatever wild turn is around the corner is made easier because each one is so interesting and exciting, they’re worth exploring despite any outlandishness.

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