“The Body Double” by Emily Beyda opens in a narrative by a worker at a movie theater concession stand. She makes an Instant connection with readers through the first person construction. She shares in great detail what she sees: the landscapes, the people, and her surroundings. She describes people and places based on her observations, expectations and feelings. She rationalizes her doubts and justifies her opinions. Readers get to know her well. Someone else knows her well, too. She is perfect, well almost perfect, for the most important role of her life – standing in for Rosanna an “ill” celebrity.
Beyda constructs a story so preposterous that it is becomes believable in this age of celebrities and social media. The intense mannerism training, the social manipulation, and the physical alterations are the staple of reality TV. Readers follow as she gets a new name, new residence, and a new, large bank account. The pace is very slow as she morphs into Rosanna, leaving her past behind. She soon learns that this transformation is different from what she imagined; it becomes more than a well-paying job, more than a temporary fill-in part. This role has changed her; it sent her to a dark place. The supporting characters are also seen through her eyes. No one is as she expected; no one is her friend; no one cares about her. Readers soon come to distrust if not hate most of them.
“The Body Double” starts with in intriguing premise, a stand-in for a celebrity, but too much of the story is centered on the mechanics of her transportation, rather than on her performance as the replacement celebrity. I was given a review copy of “The Body Double” by Emily Beyda and Random House. This debut novel by Emily Beyda has compelling components, but I was somewhat disappointed by the slow-burn brooding, and wanted more “celebrity conflict.”