Elias Phinn copes with his painful reality by slipping into the imaginary realm of Salem, a world that colors his every waking moment and feels more real than the actual one around him. When his carry-on luggage is switched with that of the beautiful and mysterious Clara, Elias becomes convinced that she is a Salem diplomat’s daughter. But as the two become friends and their carefully constructed worlds begin to crack, Elias must save them both before everything falls apart.
Poignant, heartrending, and powerfully real, Both of Me is the latest young adult novel from award-winning author Jonathon Friesen. As it explores themes of friendship, mental illness, and self-discovery, this gripping novel will catch—and keep—the attention of teen readers.
Jonathan Friesen is an author, speaker, and youth writing coach from Mora, Minnesota. His first young adult novel, Jerk, California, received the ALA Schneider Award. When he’s not writing, speaking at schools, or teaching, Jonathan loves to travel and hang out with his wife and three kids.
Stellar. Seriously. My only other experience with a male author writing from a female point of view is John Green (hard to top, I know). And yet, Jonathan Freisen totally nails it. While reading Both of Me, I felt zero author interruption (aka, the author’s male voice slipping in here and there). I just felt like I was reading a really good story about a girl named Clara who doesn’t have it all together. A girl who’s trying to find her way in the world and maybe she just needs a little break from reality, a little Elias Phinn, to figure out not only what she wants, but what she really, truly needs.
“Have you ever run from reality? Have you ever run because reality was too much, too suffocating, too…just too? And then you find a fiction. And the fiction feels more real than the real ever did. Have you ever felt like that?” ~ Clara, Both of Me
I quite enjoyed journeying to different “Salems” with Elias and Clara. It was sort of a road trip book, but also had a “coming of age” feel. I anticipated the moments when Elias was himself, and dreaded the moments when he slipped from reality and became “The Other One”–the Elias who lives in a fictional world with lightkeepers, and queens, and the need to protect his precious “Salem”. I also have to say that Jonathan writes some excellent romance–little moments when Elias and Clara found each other, and my heart literally stopped beating for a moment because wow, did a dude really write this? Yeah, like I said…stellar writing.
The ending left me feeling…hmmm…I felt satisfied, but a little down at the same time. I did not expect the plot twist, which just hit me like a mack truck loaded with bricks. I really fell in love with Elias (both versions) as a character. I won’t ruin it. I do have to thank Jonathan Friesen for adding the epilogue. That helped sweeten up some of the bitterness I felt toward the end. The thing is, even though I felt a little down in the dumps, I still thought the author handled the ending like a pro. It was realistic, but left some hope for the reader (and for Clara). It may not be the happily ever after I wanted, but it was still a good ending. ‘Nuf said.
I give Both of Me by Jonathan Friesen 5 out of 5 hearts for stellar writing, an engaging story, and a well done ending.
If you could visit a fictional world like Both of Me‘s Elias Phinn, what three things would you absolutely have to bring with you and why? Tell me in the comments below or tweet to me @SaraEllaWrites. I love hearing from you! Until then, happy reading!
I received Both of Me for review from BookLookBloggers. I was not asked to write a positive review. All views and opinions are solely and completely my own. I received no compensation other than a copy of Both of Me, which is mine to keep or gift as I so choose. This post also contains affiliate links. To learn more, please read my full policy.
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