Cover of Where I End and You Begin. A boy and a girl walk away from each other in a mirror image.

About the Book

Title: Where I End and You Begin
Published: 2019

Cover Story: Nope
Drinking Buddy: I’ll Have What She’s Having
MPAA Rating: R (Nudity, Sexual situations, Crude Humor, Profanity)
Talky Talk: Let’s Talk Swap
Bonus Factors: Ed Wood, Twelfth Night
Bromance Status: Don’t Judge a Book

Cover Story: Nope

This would be a sweet cover for a traditional romance, but that’s not what we’re looking at here. The title is a nice double entendre, if somewhat misleading.

The Deal:

Ezra Slevin doesn’t have a life anyone would envy. His parents are distant (and totally cheating on each other). His sister, Willow, is no longer close to him and is making some poor choices with boys. His secret YouTube channel where he impersonates Johnny Depp characters has thousands of followers, but he doesn’t dare reveal himself to the world. He’s a junior and has never kissed a girl.

Well, all that’s going to change. A solar eclipse is about to hit town, and he’s going to use the occasion to ask Imogen Klutz (what a name!), his nerd girl crush, to the prom. If only her obnoxious friend, Wynonna, wasn’t going to be there as well. Backed up by his five-foot-tall buddy Holden, Ezra is prepared to go all in.

But then something happens. Somehow, he and Wynonna wake up in each other’s bodies. He’s now a sixteen-year-old girl with blue hair, an awesome collection of t-shirts, and a rather impressive chest. Fortunately, they swap back the next day. But then they swap again. And again. They have no idea why this is happening or how long it will last. In fact, this isn’t the first time. It happened briefly during the last eclipse, when they were in the fourth grade, but they’d both convinced themselves they’d imagined it.

Realizing they’re going to have to make the best of a bad situation, Ezra and Wynonna try to live each other’s lives, despite the fact they really don’t like each other. But when Ezra stumbles upon evidence that Wynonna is desperately crushing on his best friend Holden, he makes a proposal. They’ll play Cyrano for each other. Ezra, as Wynonna, will convince Imogen to date him, and Wynonna will do the same for Ezra. And when they’re in their own bodies, they’ll give each other hints about their friends, letting them know exactly what to do and say. Hey, what could go wrong?

The thing is, the magic shows no sign of stopping. Eventually, a month passes with Ezra and Wynonna in the wrong bodies. To make things worse, they both start identifying less and less with their former personality. Are they becoming each other in mind as well as body?

Drinking Buddy: I’ll Have What She’s Having

Two pints of beer cheersing

Ezra and Wynonna are delightfully flawed characters. Ezra is an introvert to the nth degree, but comes alive on YouTube, transforming himself into Edward Scissorhands, Captain Jack Sparrow, or Sweeny Todd. He’s crushing on Imogen, a girl he idolizes for her brains, innocent charm, and amazing eyebrows.

Wynonna, on the other hand, is a woman of the bass ass, don’t eff with me school. As Ezra occupies her life, however, he gets to see the sensitive side of her, and grows to like who she is. And though the pair initially don’t get along, they never once try to sabotage the other’s life.

That is not to say that they don’t make some pretty stupid choices. Ezra takes it upon himself to reunite Wynonna with her estranged father, without asking her permission or even telling her. And when Wynonna finds out, she socks Ezra…without stopping to think what a teenage boy clocking a teenage girl must look like to outsiders.

MPAA Rating: Nudity, Sexual situations, Crude Humor, Profanity

Now in most stories and movies where a guy realizes he’s now a woman, he reacts in one of two ways: None of our business, or he whips off his clothes and starts fondling himself in front of a mirror. Ezra, however, is a gentleman. While very much heterosexual, he looks at Wynonna’s–well, his–body with detachment. He finds it unsettling to be missing certain parts, of course, but he’s more distracted by the feel of someone else’s teeth in his mouth or the sound of his unfamiliar laughter.

Also, before all this started, Ezra was questioning his gender identity just a little bit. He’s not transgender, or genderqueer, or nonbianary, or anything. He really doesn’t know how to define it, other than he doesn’t completely see himself as 100% male. And he’s excited about his future cosplay as Johnny Depp’s portrayal of crossdressing film director Ed Wood. More excited than he really should be, in his opinion. So when he finds himself suddenly female, he just kind of goes with it. He teaches himself the wizardry of wearing a bra. He goes through Wynonna’s closet and finds the most flattering outfits, impressed by her kitschy tastes. He submits to a makeover and mani pedi from Imogen. Well, ‘submits’ is the wrong word. ‘Really enjoys’ would be more appropriate.

But then there’s the ubiquitous menstruation scene, and Ezra having to teach Wynonna how to deal with morning wood. It’s not always pretty.

And of course, there’s their little romantic scheme. Imogen is smitten by this new, confident Ezra, while Holden suddenly realizes that Wynonna seems to share all his interests and hobbies. So what do they do when the romance starts heating up? How far are they willing to go to help the other succeed?

Answer: Very far.

Talky Talk: Let’s Talk Swap

So this book did what other body swap books neglect: focused on the nuts and bolts of living someone else’s life. Wynonna’s car is a stick, which Ezra doesn’t know how to drive. Ezra winds up with Wynonna’s dyslexia, while she has his chronic insomnia. Ezra nearly chokes on some pizza when he jumps into Wynnona as she’s having lunch. Wynonna nearly rolls Ezra’s car when she suddenly finds herself behind the wheel.

That’s not to say the book was flawless. The pair almost immediately begin spinning the situation to help their romantic lives, even before the initial shock wears off. And they never seem to wonder why this is happening. I mean, this proves humans have souls, right? No, they just kind of accept it, like you would being assigned to a group project with someone you don’t like.

On the other hand, there was some sweet scenes. Ezra, who hates himself for not being his little sister’s protector, inadvertently becomes her best friend in the guise of Wynonna. Wynonna suddenly is no longer a loud mouthed girl, but an intimidating guy, even with Ezra’s physique. I mean, there are worse fates, right?

Bonus Factor: Ed Wood

Close of of a man's crazed eyes on a black and white TV screen.

Ezra wants to cosplay all of Johnny Depp’s roles (he really regrets doing Tonto, however), including the 1994 biopic of director Ed Wood. Wood was famous for two things. His movies were incredibly enthusiastic and incredibly terrible (he pioneered the use of hubcaps as flying saucers and he once cast junkie Dracula actor Bella Lugosi in a film, even though he was dead). Also, Wood was an enthusiastic and unapologetic crossdresser. He was a marine at some of the bloodiest battles of World War II, wearing a bra and panties under his uniform. Ezra, living half his life as Wynonna, can really empathize with the director, especially the Glen or Glenda? era.

Bonus Factor: Twelfth Night

Bust of William Shakespeare
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, it was the inspiration for the 2006 movie She’s the Man. The book begins with the four main characters getting busted for breaking into the school to watch the eclipse from the roof. The principal (who’s also Holden’s mom) sentences them to participate in the drama department’s production of Twelfth Night. The boys are unenthused, Imogen is excited, and Wynonna is horrified (no one knows she’s dyslexic and reading a script is all but impossible for her). But hey, the play centers around a woman pretending to be a man. Maybe she can relate.

Bromance Status: Don’t Judge a Book

The cover misled me, but the contents sold me. It’s what’s inside the counts, after all.

Literary Matchmaking

The Swap

Another funny gender-bending body swap book.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor a makeover for writing this review. Not like I ever wanted a makeover, of course. What kind of teenage guy thinks about something like that? Sure, middle school gym class was hell on earth, and maybe you look over at the girls’ side of the gym and you realize that none of them are expected to fight or excel at sports and maybe you get to thinking what if…

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.