Review: When I Was You

the book in question

Brienne Dougray was attacked and left for dead. During her recovery, she suffers from the trauma of that incident, debilitating migraines, and plenty of uncertainty in her memory both before and after her assault. Something obviously happened, her friends have stopped talking to her and she has no one in her life other than the doctor Niall Emberlin who is the new tenant in her house and the only person there for her. But when she notices someone else in the area with the same everything, including name, between her fear of being disbelieved and her need for some sort of justice, she goes to solve this problem herself. Who is pretending to be her?

As a thriller, there are lots of spoilers and I will do my best to tag them all.

My general thoughts: as a thriller, I feel like this book does its job. Its first part creeps up, giving you all of this information and trying to make you as confused as Brienne. I’ll admit, I had the first twist locked down. I did not have the second twist, or the third, from the second part on there was hardly any room to consider what was going on other than the plot at hand. The writing, first person present, was actually done well. Brienne isn’t the only POV character we get to see and you can tell the difference between them even if you didn’t look at the name at the top of the chapter when the POV shifted.

Brienne is obscenely wealthy, which does bring me some questions. I can understand that she apparently lived her life without really getting too much into it, that’s fine. But even in regards to her first assault – events that happened before the first page of the book – you would think that with that much money she would still have people looking into things. Even if her viewpoint, jaded after her attack, tells her that people would only be doing it to get her money. But when she finds someone living as her, she gives up immediately. Considering her own physical condition and her fear of putting herself out there to search that is suggested at the very first of the book, it doesn’t make much sense. But she has trauma and obviously is triggered by being said to be insane, so I can excuse it.

Getting into the nitty gritty here (I will still try not to say anything specific, but I will still say spoilers for generalizations). There are many things I had to ignore in order to go along with the story. I’ll admit, it wasn’t actually too hard to ignore most of these problems and just enjoy the ride. Mainly to see the antagonist do their thing, wondering what the plan was and how they might possibly get their comeuppance. Yet there were several things I had a hard time swallowing.

At the very top of this was how Brienne ended up all alone at the beginning of the book. I must say, her friends aren’t really very good friends. Especially as they left her after her assault. Certainly it is hard to be around someone suffering at times, especially when it affects their mind and personality. They obviously thought that was what was going on as well. And they didn’t even try, or speak to her face to face. They ghosted their nearly killed and psychologically tortured friend. Even if there wasn’t the mystery of the book, and a double of Brienne, that doesn’t really seem to be the action of close friends. Brienne is recovering from some harsh things, while currently being subjected to others, so I’m not willing to blame her for not trying sooner to speak with her friends. But her friends sure don’t give me the comfort the memory of their past together gives Brienne.

Second is how the implication of the mental illness given in this book is handled. I am perfectly fine with both POV characters’ interpretation of it. Neither of them are true medical professionals, neither of them are knowledgeable psychiatrists. People are tricked into thinking things of different mental conditions all the time. But a character in this book is an expert in DID. I know nothing ever goes exactly as textbook cases, but considering how actually hard it is to get a real diagnosis in real life when you actually have a problem, it seems so unlikely that an institution would accept someone without the proper documentation, without diagnosing the person themselves, something. If someone in the institution was being paid off, that would have been another matter.

Third, Brienne’s double. (Super spoilers here, even if I’m still trying to be unspecific.) She didn’t know what was going on. That alone is what actually breaks the story for me. If she actually knew what she was doing, instead of being manipulated into it, that would be one thing. And she wasn’t brought in because of her physical similarities to Brienne. She was just there to be involved and… happened to look exactly like her when given a slight makeover? That makes the least amount of sense as anything. She is said to have the same taste in music, which couldn’t possibly be tailored and therefore was just a coincidence. Fortunately this revelation came far enough in that I was still curious enough about how the story would end, because if it had happened sooner I might have put the book down and come back to it later. I half expected to learn that they were related in one way or another, to at least make sense of that. Which would have been more convoluted in an already convoluted plot, but could have been written in a way to work it together to at least keep this issue from feeling as egregious as it did to me.

And (the most specific spoiler and my most infuriating part in the entire story), when you have your friend back on your side, want to confront your antagonist, and they let you go on your own? Not even call the cops after you? Not a good friend. Again, and perhaps even specifically for this end scene alone, Brienne’s friends are the weakest part of the story, bar nothing.

(End of spoilers!)

Despite my problems with it, I did enjoy the book. It was a fun read and went by fast. I liked reading from both POVs, liked calling them both out on things, while understanding why they still did what they did, liked some of the coincidences and the rather clumsy sleuthing. It’s not perfect in any stretch, but a thriller that is exciting? This book does deliver that.

I give this book a 3 out of 5, a good book that someone less picky than me would likely find amazing, but that I personally am happy to have spent a few hours with to have read. Read if you want to have a thrill, but not if you are looking for a mystery to pull apart. Very different genres that I am learning to judge differently.


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