Book Review: Paula Rawsthorne’s Shell

19 February 2019

By Kirsty

What if you thought you had died, only to wake up to find that your brain and eyes had been transplanted into someone else’s body? When Lucy, a teen diagnosed with terminal cancer wakes up cancer-free, it should be a dream come true. But faced with a life she didn’t choose and trapped in a new body, Lucy must face the biggest question of all . . . How far would you go to save the one you love?

Lucy or Renee?

After spending her whole adolescence battling cancer, a new body allows Lucy to be everything she wasn’t in her life before – a pretty, popular teenage girl within the realms of her big house and private school. But this isn’t Lucy; this is Renee, and her body represents a life stolen, not only from Lucy but from another girl, somewhere else, too. And it is this girl, this life stolen, that is in part to blame for Lucy – or Renee – or whatever – and the struggle to live, not just in her new body, but in the new life that comes with it. Though, language-wise, Shell is easy to read – its vivid, first-person description of internal thoughts makes it a quick read, even though it is almost 400 pages long – the content is markedly less so.

There is a sense of darkness throughout – from Lucy’s early despair, to her progressing loneliness and, finally, culminating in the treatment of her by her parents, and the violence of her discovery about where her body really came from.

Style vs. Content

The style throughout Shell almost feels at odds with the content: but this works. A sick child, Lucy spent her life caught in a sense of fake adulthood, forced to grow up through the trauma of her cancer but left young and underdeveloped by the restriction it put on her. By no means is she old enough, or mature enough, or even really has enough experience to make the decisions she is expected to make, or to understand the things she is expected to understand. Lucy is fundamentally unprepared for the series of events the book takes us through, and we feel that more than anything; just how hard this is for her.

For our review of M.A. Griffin’s Payback, another candidate for the North East Teenage Book Awards, click here.

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