Mackie is our young protagonist, a high school student trying to disappear into the wallpaper. Why? Because he is a replacement, a changeling switched with a human child in the town of Gentry. Gentry has issues that no one likes to talk about, like the babies getting switched with reasonable facsimiles. It's a giant purple elephant playing the bagpipes in the room. Mackie walks around trying to give off 'I'm a perfectly normal boy' vibe except that he can't touch metal without barfing and the smell of blood gives him the vapors. This has recently become quite a problem as his reactions are getting worse, that is to say, Mackie is deathly ill.
Now is not a convenient time to have Otherworldly disease since a toddler just died. Mackie knows that he was supposed to die as a child when the boy he replaced was taken. Tate, the toddler's sister, suspects this is what happened at her house. She figures he has all the answers. However, Mackie doesn't because, hello Tate, he was a baby at the time and can't remember. And do I have to repeat- NO ONE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IT. She makes him feel as low as dirt until he decides he has to find out what really happened to the little girl.
There were parts of this book that just didn't add up. First, there is Mackie. Obviously, he's an odd duckling. Everyone seems to know that; Tate heads right for him after her sister disappears. Yet for all his negative thinking he has charming friends and the most popular girl in school wants to date him. (Jodie at Bookgazing has a thorough analysis of Mackie if you are interested.) Now, maybe I can't see Mackie as a social butterfly because he spends the first part of the novel going over in excruciating detail his every ache and pain. It's hard to get to know a character when that's all he talks about. This part of the novel really dragged because of it.
Then there's Tate. It should be easy to sympathize with a girl who's lost her sister but it was a struggle for me. I did not like this girl. Was she supposed to be strong? I did not find her so. She bullies Mackie into doing what she wants (then they make out a little) and when he tries to do as she's demanded and fails she yells at him some more. And yet he likes her? I couldn't figure out what the attraction was there. Perhaps I could have liked Tate more if she made an attempt to find her sister herself rather than bully Mackie into it. Yes, he did need a kick in the rear but Tate's tactics are questionable at best.
The Replacement feels a bit like a young adult version of The Lottery with a paranormal twist. However, I think the underground world Yovanoff creates is the best part of the book with it's Lewis Carroll quality. Emma, Mackie's sister, is without a doubt the most interesting character. The parents and other adults, like in so many YA novels, practically useless.
Despite feeling that the book dragged in places and I questioned the actions of a number of characters, I was intrigued enough to listen to it to the end. It was interesting and I'd like to see what else Yovanoff can come up with but it wasn't my favorite read (or listen) of the year.
Note: This is a young adult novel. However, before you run out buy it for your kiddies then come back here and yell at me, you should know that the F-bomb is dropped many times and there are sexy situations (groping). Just so you know.
About the Audio: Kevin T Collins was the narrator. He was a lovely voice but his pronunciation is PRE-CISE and careful. I found it slow.