After a slow start, Mikels’ fantasy tale settles into a mostly satisfying read.
Hitting his 30s, Mike Wilson sees himself as a has-been who never was. All he wants to do is play football–as a high school student, he had the ambition and drive to be a great player, but he didn’t have the body or athleticism. So he puts away his childhood dreams and settles into a life as a family man. Then, a freak storm allows him to switch bodies with his 19-year-old cousin, Justin Chastain, who’s struggling to put his life together after a childhood surrounded by violence and drug addiction. Neither Mike nor Justin understands why the switch happened, but both accept their fates. After the violent murder/suicide that took the life of his parents, Justin just wants a place to belong, while Mike sees a chance to be the football great he always imagined he could be. It’s as if the Powers That Be are making things right. Mike’s determined to make his second chance count and goes from a position as a freshman walk-on player at the University of Oklahoma to a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in a single year. What he didn’t take into account, however, was how the switch would affect Justin, his wife and those he met as a football phenom. The narrative is at its best when dealing with the play on the field, but loses focus when it shifts to Mike’s off-field troubles. Too much time is also devoted to Mike’s point of view, causing the development of Justin’s tale to suffer. Though the life of a middle-aged insurance agent seems less exciting than that of a collegiate superstar, the former’s backstory proves extremely intriguing. While the football scenes are strongest, Mikels relies on them too much. In each game, Mike-as-Justin seems to see fear in the opposing player’s eyes, make an amazing defensive play, suffer a cheap shot and then badly injure the opposition. Cutting down on this repetitive structure would make for a stronger book. Unfortunately, the deus ex machina epilogue also chips away at its credibility.
Freaky Friday meets The Natural meets a collegiate Any Given Sunday.