Stoned, Dee’s attractive male friend Jamie suggests the existence of an alternate universe, and later the 16-year-old finds it by stepping through a mirror.
On the other side, she encounters Samara, her alter ego. Where Dee is a good student and rarely steps off the straight and narrow, Samara, an unhappy loner since her mother committed suicide three years before, savors cutting herself, an act that’s vividly depicted a few times throughout the narrative. Told in these two girls’ voices in alternate chapters, their stories interweave when they inexplicably decide to swap places for a day or two. Samara encourages Jamie’s sexual advances, and Dee tells Samara’s father about her cutting, leaving both teens with new issues when they return to their own worlds. While Samara must deal with therapy, Dee faces greater trials. Though these push her off her college-track, she adjusts with remarkably minor angst. The quality of writing is uneven, too often telling rather than showing and never managing to generate sufficient suspense to move the tale forward. Both Dee and Samara are described in detail, yet remain stock characters—good teen and troubled teen. Others are more superficially developed. While the concept is intriguing, the paranormal aspect is overshadowed by the less compelling reality-fiction component.
Ultimately, this average debut effort never rises above the masses in either overcrowded genre. (Paranormal/reality fiction. 12 & up)