Bronwen Oliver has thought for years that she must have been switched at birth. Her blonde, perfectly-pulled-together mother is always looking at her naturally brunette daughter and saying, “I don’t know where she gets it from,” whether it’s about her extreme dislike of ketchup or her interest in journalism. It doesn’t help that Bronwen’s older brother (whom she refers to as Jesus) is practically perfect in every way and is worshipped by her mother, or that her stepfather is perfectly nice but a little detached. So Bronwen has concluded that her real name was supposed to be Phoebe Lilywhite, and the brown-haired Lilywhites will be coming for her any day. She is just keeping herself busy with school and friends and being cordial to her current family until that day comes.
Then she becomes reacquainted with an old friend of her brother’s, Jared Sondervan, and they begin dating. Jared is a college student, while Bronwen is just about to start her senior year of high school. He is good-looking, kind, and fun and has an equally charming family. She loves being with him and his whole family. When their relationship progresses to love and then to an engagement, Bronwen is sure she has found the right place for her, a family in which she truly belongs. But as the time gets close to her wedding, Bronwen starts to wonder if she’s doing what’s best for her — or Phoebe.
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else is an absolutely charming and lovely book. It could be just another fluffy young adult romance, but it digs deeper to issues of identity, self-worth, belonging and family. Bronwen is a real, three-dimensional character who is searching for her place in the world, and she comes to find that to truly be happy, she must transcend her family’s tendency to gloss over difficult issues. She must risk pain and heartache to become herself. Jared is an equally real character, a wonderfully sweet and fun young man with whom it is easy for Bronwen — and readers — to fall in love. The whole book is witty, engaging and poignant, and by the end, I just wanted to slow down and savor the last pages. It’s a wonderful debut by Erin McCahan; I will look forward to further books by this talented writer.
Rated: Moderate (for young adult readers; for adults it’s a mild). A few occasions of mild and moderate language, and one scene in which there is some brief teen fondling, which gives it the moderate-for-teens rating. But the main character is saving sex for marriage, and she sticks to it.