Rosa Marchant is a British girl of eighteen. She has what is described as a terminal nerve condition. She is waiting to be the subject of a global medical first, a full body transplant. Her brain will be moved to a healthy body. It is her only chance of survival.
The parents of Sylvia Johnson, the dead girl whose body Rosa will assume, and Rosa’s own parents have all agreed that after the operation neither couple wants contact with the other. There will also be no press coverage.
The book now poses some existential questions. Will the operation succeed? If it does, to what extent will Rosa remain herself? To what extent will she become Sylvia? Rosa knows nothing of Sylvia but her name. What will it be like to be a human being with zero degrees of self-knowledge? And finally there are clear rules surrounding the operation and its aftermath: but what will happen if the new Rosa violates those rules?
There is a philosophical problem arising from the very essence of Young’s book. It seems as if the physical entity and even the personal attributes of the dead donor flood into some kind of vacuum that calls itself Rosa. Without the injection of another person, Rosa is a blank. Young struggles, on the whole successfully, with the consequences of this problem. But in the end it is the premise that stays in the memory, the premise that without miraculous treatment disabled people are nonentities. Sadly, this wheelchair-using reviewer found the book an ordeal rather than a pleasure to read.