Deputy editor Virjinia Vassileva reviews King’s alumni James Bailey’s debut novel, The Flip Side.
The Flip Side is a romantic-comedy novel which grabs the attention of the reader at the very start and does not let go until the very end. Despite a simple plot that follows the life of the main character, the dynamics and the various unexpected twists make you devour the book. The rapid development of events starts from the very first page and keeps the reader engaged throughout the entire story. The novel is divided into five main parts, being “Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter”. As the repetition of the latter suggests, the story follows Josh, the protagonist, for a year that brings about many changes for him. After a series of what he considers as poor decisions that lead to bitter disappointments, he takes the leap of faith.
Feeling miserable and almost completely lost in life, Josh decides to let a coin make all his decisions for an entire year. Heads or tails — this is it. What starts as the reason behind crazy combinations of clothes soon becomes the beginning of unexpected adventures, one across the world and one towards finding oneself. This is a novel encompassing ecstatic moments and real friends, but also great sorrow and detached siblings. But above all, intriguing choices.
While the story is written in an entertaining manner with jokes and sarcastic comments, it reflects upon daily life choices everyone makes, bringing the reader closer to Josh. At some moments you feel empathetic, but soon you start seeing yourself in the character as he tries to deal with the hardships of early adulthood. Although the main events appear to be more fictional, most parts of the story depict very mundane and usual situations. The addition of the character’s thoughts render the novel somewhat philosophical, turning it into more than a purely entertaining piece. It makes you reflect on yourself and even re-experience and re-think some of your own choices, while also having fun. Meanwhile, the detailed descriptions create very realistic images without being too invasive. This perfect balance between dialogue, reasoning and descriptions makes the characters and situations so vivid that you feel like you are standing right next to Josh and his friends, experiencing everything together.
This feel was further reiterated for me as I have visited some of the places mentioned in the novel. Reading about them made me return to my own memories and experiences. It even made me think whether I had seen people with similar descriptions to those of the characters while being there. Surprisingly, I could see a lot of similarities between the nature of dialogues James’ characters and my friends and I had when exploring the same places, making the novel even more appealing and realistic to me.
Being a great combination of serious topics and light humour, The Flip Side is a good read for anyone that feels like they need a break from heavy and overly sophisticated works. I am personally not a big fan of romantic stories, but this one had just the right amount of it to accompany a spontaneous and interesting adventure.
E-book copies, audiobook and paper copies are available online. Paper copies are available at shops as well.