Wednesday, June 16, 2010


"What happened to that book you were reading about
"Lost on Planet China? I finished it. Now I'm reading
a book about a girl who had a brain transplant against her will."
"A brain transplant."
"You're kidding me, right?"
"Who in their right mind would buy a plot about a brain
Yep, it's book three in Meg Cabot's Airhead trilogy. Runaway follows the further adventures of Emerson Watts, whose brain was transplanted into the body of supermodel Nikki Howard after a freak accident at a Stark Megastores' grand opening. Book one, Airhead, is mostly concerned with Em learning to live as Nikki. In book two, Being Nikki, Em learns that Nikki didn't die of an aneurysm as she'd been told, but is very much alive and the victim of attempted murder because of something she'd overheard about Stark Megastores and the launch of their new, low-cost laptops. She tried to blackmail her boss and wound up as nothing more than a brain to be discarded until a compassionate doctor transplanted her into yet another available body, this one much too average for Nikki's taste.

Book three opens with Nikki, her mother and brother, and Em all being held prisoner by Brandon Stark, Nikki's one-time boyfriend. He wants Nikki's secret so he can blackmail his father. Nikki wants her old body back. Lulu, Em's roommate, wants Nikki's brother, Steven. And Em? She wants Christopher, her best friend, to be more than a best friend.

Got that?

It's barely plausible as a plot, but it is very readable and funny in a campy, conspiracy-theory kind of way. I like Meg Cabot's writing style -- she's like a Sophie Kinsella for the high school set -- but she doesn't quite make it past my mom-filter on this one. My biggest objection throughout this whole series has been the implication that Nikki is no sexual innocent. Em is, there's no question of that, but many references are made to Nikki's body and its sexuality. Em is confused by the sensations and signals her new body sends her. In book three, we find out that Nikki really isn't an innocent -- Brandon admits he'd only stayed with Nikki "for sex." And Nikki's been a bit of a skank, sneaking around behind Brandon's back to hook up with Lulu's boyfriend at the time, Justin. But now she wants to get back together with Brandon because she's convinced he'll be able to help her get a reverse-brain transplant so she can go back to being Nikki, even though the operation would almost certainly kill either her or Em or both.

Got that?

Em has to deal with the fallout from their infidelity, has to make sense of her body's messages, has to find a way to get Christopher to see that she loves him (though I have to say, this is pretty obvious and I found myself wondering how she could miss something so glaringly clear). While I like Cabot's easy, breezy style, and I very much liked the realization Em has that being pretty on the outside doesn't really make up for being a jerk on the inside, I have all the same objections I had to the first book; there's just too much sexuality in this for me to be comfortable with it as a junior high book, and almost too much for me to be comfortable with it below age 16.

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