Lucy Burgess is a teenager in the end-stage of terminal cancer. Her parents are fabulously wealthy and her mother decides she cannot let her die so a bizarre procedure is performed – without Lucy’s knowledge or agreement-in which her brain and eyes are removed and grafted onto a donor body. Family and friends are told that Lucy has died-there is even a funeral – and Lucy takes on her new existence as Renee, a family friend who has been taken in by Lucy’s parents.
This surreal and unsettling beginning then gives way to an examination of the moral, ethical and practical implications of such a clandestine procedure. Lucy insists on returning to her old school but cannot get her former best friend Makayla to view her with anything other than hostility and suspicion. Instead, her `new’ athletic, attractive body brings her to the attention of the cheerleading squad, who she always despised for what she saw as their shallowness. Now she enjoys the attention-and the looks and comments from the boys in her year.
However, it is impossible to reconnect with her beloved grandmother, or Arthur, her dog-or her horses. All three sense that `Renee’ is in some way not what she seems to be and withdraw from her. But she is not the only fraudulent element in this equation. Her consultant, Dr Radnor, who Lucy trusts initially, also has another horrifying identity. He runs a clinic in which he claims he is trying to cure young, terminally ill people but he is really abducting and murdering to order, so that those who have enough money to pay-young or old-can literally have a new lease of life. As Lucy/Renee becomes increasingly unhappy the tremors which she noticed in her hands have now spread to the rest of her body and need new, powerful medication.
The plot climbs steadily to new heights of hysteria as Lucy’s mother discovers the source of Lucy’s distress but blocks out the possibility that the doctor she regarded as a saviour, is, in fact a murderer. Instead of phoning the police she locks Lucy up in the house and summons Dr Radnor so that he can administer the medication which will stop the life-threatening tremors. Meanwhile, a chance encounter with the brother of the murdered girl whose body Lucy now inhabits by means of a party prank captured on youtube inadvertently forms an alliance between the boy and Makayla, who witness the cornered Dr Radnor shooting Lucy’s father dead and calamitously wounding her mother.
Reader credibility is stretched to breaking point by this time and what could have been a pacey thriller concerned with identity and the value placed on human life becomes a rather overheated story which piles on one too many pieces of action.