Mercy by Rebecca Lim, is a YA book about Mercy, an angel (or something like that, it’s not entirely articulated, despite what the blurb says). She is forcibly thrust into random girls bodies and forced to take over their lives. She never knows where she’ll wake up, who she’ll have to be or why. This time, she wakes up as Carmen, a star soprano singer in a high school choir. The choir is visiting the town of Paradise for a concert and preparations and Mercy/Carmen finds herself billeted with the family of a girl who disappeared two years previously.
Although everyone else assumes the missing girl is dead, her twin brother believes she is alive and hasn’t given up searching for her. Mercy realised that he’s probably right and joins him in his search and attempts to work out who the culprit is.
Although this is a YA book, it reminded me a bit of serial killer books I’ve read in the past (Michael Marshal [Smith] springs to mind), but that’s possibly more a reflection of the dearth of crime novels I’ve read. Nevertheless, I found something appealing about Mercy’s attempts to work out who did it and try to get inside the criminal’s mind. That aspect of the novel was dark in a different way to, for example, YA dystopias. It was about the darkness inside one person than the darkness of an oppressive society or a war.
Lim has a more poetic writing style than most other YA books I can think of. Also, written in first person, Mercy spends more time philosophising than other YA characters that spring to mind (possibly because she’s not really a teenage girl). She also spends time wondering who and why she really is, who the mysterious probably-angels that she dreams about are and so forth. I didn’t find those parts as exciting as the who kidnapped the girl parts and at times they got a bit tedious.
On the other hand, I enjoyed the parts where she didn’t care what the bitchy girls thought of her/Carmen and didn’t respond as insecurely as Carmen would have. There was pleasure to be derived from watching the bitchy popular girl squirm. Oh, and Mercy isn’t a terribly kind person, which, if anything, added to her character, in my opinion.
Overall, Mercy is a well-written book. I’ll be picking up the sequel although my impression is that almost all the supporting characters will have changed. Hopefully Mercy’s character will be enough to carry off the dramatic change (according to the blurb and Shaheen’s review).
4 / 5 stars