Review: The Body Institute

cover-body instituteTitle: Body Institute
Author: Carol Riggs
Series: ?
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Length: Novel
Available: Sept 1st


Meet Morgan Dey, one of the top teen Reducers at The Body Institute.

Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Morgan can temporarily take over another girl’s body, get her in shape, and then return to her own body-leaving her client slimmer, more toned, and feeling great. Only there are a few catches…

For one, Morgan won’t remember what happens in her “Loaner” body. Once she’s done, she won’t recall walks with her new friend Matt, conversations with the super-cute Reducer she’s been text-flirting with, or the uneasy feeling she has that the director of The Body Institute is hiding something. Still, it’s all worth it in the name of science. Until the glitches start…

Suddenly, residual memories from her Loaner are cropping up in Morgan’s mind. She’s feeling less like herself and more like someone else. And when protests from an anti-Body Institute organization threaten her safety, she’ll have to decide if being a Reducer is worth the cost of her body and soul…

Source: ARC from Entangled Teen via NetGalley

In a futuristic US where healthcare has now become universally free, the government is cracking down on weight in order to lessen the burden on the system. Extra taxes are levied on people who go too far above their recommended weight and from then on things become very difficult. Which is where the Body Institute comes in. Can’t shift the weight? No problem, head to the Institute and a nifty bit of tech will swap your consciousness for someone else’s and they’ll do the work for you. It might take a couple of months or even a year, but you won’t know a thing because your brain has been downloaded and put into storage for later.

As for the Reducers who will trim and tone your body for you, well, their body gets put into suspended animation, ready to be revived when they return to their own heads. Sounds like a great idea! Or not, depending on how paranoid you might be. But for those sporting types who need an extra incentive, a Reducer is paid very well for their time.

Which is why Morgan signs up. Super-smart yet from a poorer background, she wants to help both clear her family’s debt and make it to college. Her friends and family have reservations about the whole idea, but Morgan wants to save the world so off she goes. Of course nothing is quite as simple as that, as the reader learns when Morgan says one thing at the end of her first contract, then thinks something completely different mere days later. This is because the Reducer’s brain map is taken from when they first leave their body, while the version of them at the end is discarded. This is to protect the privacy of their client, but it also means anything Morgan learnt while Reducing is effectively gone. Which is rather convenient for the shady types that linger in the background.

I liked this book – I thought it was clever and I definitely enjoyed it. However, those sensitive about fat shaming might find the first bit of the book uncomfortable. Morgan has definitely been raised to perceive image and body weight in a very specific way – which is fine for her, since she’s naturally athletic. This does change, and I appreciated the way she changed her opinion on why people gained weight and how the rest of the world saw overweight people, but it is gradual and the point is never really hammered home.

Because this book is more about ethics and the morals behind body swapping, even for supposedly “good” reasons. Morgan is convinced at the beginning that she’s helping to save the world, but is she really? As the book progresses plenty of doubts are raised about the Body Institute and many other issues regarding this world. Privacy and personality and what makes You you are themes that recur again and again. Morgan has a lot to learn and quite a journey to go on, and although it is pretty slow to begin with, things definitely speed up around the halfway point.

There is a romantic element, but it’s a steady, sweet kind that again played up the themes of image and perception, and is as much about friendship as anything deeper. It also helps when the mystery starts unraveling because it gives Morgan a friend that she can at least talk to, which she is otherwise lacking since she’s pretty isolated for most of this story.

There are also a few neat twists, some of which are more obvious than others, which raise extra ethical dilemmas as well as aiding in the confusion. If I’m honest I felt that the ending was a bit rushed, and was left confused as to whether this is part of a series or a standalone. Things went a lot further than I anticipated at the end and for me it was neither a complete end nor a stay-tuned-for-next-time. Instead it landed somewhere in the middle.

However, if you like your sci-fi to ask big questions and turn social perceptions on their side (if not quite on their head), and appreciate a heroine who steadily puts together puzzle pieces without having unlikely leaps of logic, then you might well enjoy this. I did, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more if this does turn out to be a series.

The Body Institute is out September 1st!
Visit Carol Riggs for more details.


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