Author: Jessica Huntley
Publication Date: 5 November 2021
Available As: Paperback and e-book
Alicia is a psychopath whose twin sister, Josslyn, now lives in her head. All they she wants is a normal life, but her stalker will not leave her alone and is willing to do anything to get Josslyn back. For the first time, Alicia and Jossyln are forced to work together to rid themselves of those that wish them harm, but in the process Josslyn seems to be changing into someone Alicia never wanted her to be: Alicia herself.
The Review (Minor Spoiler Warning):
My True Self is the followiup to My Dark Self and the second in Jessica Huntley’s planned trilogy of books that revolve around Josslyn and Alicia, twin sisters who inhabit the same body. If you haven’t read My Dark Self, Jessica makes some effort to recap some of the key events of that book throughout this story but it’s obviously recommended that you read the first book so you’re up to speed with these characters and their unique situation.
Like its predecessor, My True Self is told entirely through a first-person narrative; in the first book, Josslyn dominated the chapters and was the primary personality at work in the narrative but a lot has changed since the last book. Alicia manipulated events to have her sister surgically removed from her body, dyed her hair and changed her body, and retired to Tuscany to finally live her own life. As a result, the majority of My True Self is told through the cold, logical, and clinical eyes of Alicia, now calling herself Alexis, and her views of the world are certainly…unique. By her own admission, Alicia is a psychopath; by the time the book begins, she’s killed at least two people and tried to kill her sister-self, and she feels very little emotion or affection for anyone or anything (with the exception of Josslyn’s dog, Oscar, whom she begrudgingly tolerates). As a result, she keeps people at arm’s length and regards most people with disgust or suspicion, even those who seek to get closer to her, such as her meat supplier, Benjamin. Shirking contractions and speaking with a very blunt, often aggressive voice, Alicia is a pragmatic and logical as you could ask and absolutely determined to never have to rely on anyone ever again or relinquish control of her body.
Consequently, she was a little surprised to find that a small part of Josslyn survived within her, and even more surprised to find that she missed her “sister”. Now relegated to a passenger inside a body that no longer looks or feels like her own, Josslyn feels a little cheated out of her existence but the two quickly grow accustomed to their new situation (largely because Alicia knows that it will only be temporary as her body will eventually absorb Josslyn and silence her forever). However, Josslyn seems very different to how she was in the first book; apparently, the procedure has resulted in her regressing to a whiny, needy, extremely annoying voice in Alicia’s head. All she does it moan about wanting to try and take control (she can, and Alicia does allow it, but is too weak to stay in control for long), wanting a drink (her obsession with wine is grating, and she appears to be a full-blown alcoholic as she can never stop at just one drink), and lusting after Benjamin. The two characters are similar in some ways (they’re both quite socially awkward, but in different ways) but couldn’t feel and sound more different; Josslyn uses contractions and is quite a klutz, whereas Alicia is candid to a fault, and while Alicia is dominant and often takes charge in terms of the planning and ideas, Josslyn is able to interject with slightly different perspectives.
The two seem to co-exist a lot better with Alicia in control; she really had turned Josslyn’s life around, making her healthier and stronger than ever and exposing her to life outside of the United Kingdom at the cost of her freedom and indulging her voices for alcohol, men, and junk food. However, Alicia’s idyllic existence in Tuscany is threatened when her ex, Peter, starts calling her out; having stalked Josslyn for years, Peter is every bit a callous psychopath as Alicia but is far better at projecting the image of a friendly and successful teacher who is a pillar of his community. After playing the victim card, and positioning himself as a hero for “discovering” one of Alicia’s victims, Peter successfully goads Alicia out of hiding and back to the UK to confront him. She’s joined by Benjamin (or “Ben” to Josslyn), a well-meaning man who has a crush on “Alexis” and opts to accompany and help her despite the ice-cold shoulder Alicia often gives him. Of course, Josslyn is besotted by him and Alexis’ flip-flopping personality but confuses and intrigues Ben, who is generally just a nice guy trying to do the right thing with a bit of tragedy in his back story who ends up being pivotal to the overall plot.
I find My True Self worked a lot better when it was focused on Alicia’s perspective; luckily, this is the majority of the book, but I definitely found things taking a turn whenever Josslyn assumed control. Alicia would plot out a plan of action and be laser focused on fulfilling that objective, and have the right apathetic mindset to not let unexpected events or emotions overwhelm or deter her, only for Josslyn to either mess it up when she was allowed to take over or influence Alicia into faltering simply because Josslyn is so easily overwhelmed and ruled by her emotions. Obviously, a lot of this has to happen for the story to take place and it helps to have Josslyn’s more emotional side present for the book’s more heartbreaking and impactful moments; Alicia struggles to express or even understand emotions, and her knee-jerk reaction is to focus on her murderous impulses, and it definitely helps having Josslyn present to infuse some humanity to the cold-blooded Alicia.
Striving to be a better person and quell her more violent tendencies, Alicia is determined to hunt Peter down and eliminate him from her life, but stumbles upon a long-running, sick game of manipulation and deception played by her opponent, who has made a career out of stalking and attacking women but has become obsessed with Josslyn. Believing that he and Josslyn are fated to be together, he detests Alicia and aims to remove her, and manipulates events so that Alicia is never in a position where she can just kill him. Peter’s depiction as an utterly despicable human being also helps to make Alicia someone to root for; in My Dark Self, she was positioned as a malevolent and aggressive force and it’s true that she’s done terrible things, but Peter is her darkest shadow, all of her worst traits dialled up to eleven, meaning that it’s easy to want to see him suffer and pay for his actions. In comparison, Ben wasn’t the most compelling character, and ended up being little more than a pawn, and I kind of judge him for not just taking the hint and walking away, but he served a purpose in giving Alicia and Josslyn someone to talk to other than each other. The story definitely picks up nicely once Alicia and Ben get back to the UK and her investigation starts, and I enjoyed how Jessica brought up a few seemingly inconsequential elements from the last book and expanded on them here while also laying the groundwork for the third book in the series. I enjoyed Jessica’s descriptions of what Alicia wanted to do to people, the nightmares she suffers, and her impassive and resentful thoughts of those around her; though she claims to be a psychopath, she’s smart enough to know that she needs to assume a façade to keep people happy and finally live her life, but her violent impulses are never far from the surface and when they come through, it’s with an enjoyable gruesomeness. Jessica also hit a couple of poignant moments; one right at the start that motivates Alicia’s entire quest for revenge, and one right near the end, both of which struck home to me as a pet owner. Overall, this was a strong follow-up to the last book; Jessica’s writing has definitely improved and I liked that added focus on Alicia, especially as I found Josslyn to be a far more annoying character in comparison
If you’re interested in checking out My True Self and learning more about Jessica Huntley and her journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.