They Called Me Wyatt by Natasha Tynes introduces a whole new type of buddy cop to solve its protagonist’s murder.
The story begins when Siwar Salaiha, a Jordanian college student in Maryland, is murdered. She’s pushed off the top of a building at her 25th birthday party, and she falls to her death.
The interesting thing about They Called Me Wyatt is that we don’t learn about this from a third person narrator or through Siwar’s friends and family. We learn about it from Siwar herself, who tells the story from the mind of three-year-old Wyatt, where her consciousness went to live after her death.
Siwar tries to communicate with Wyatt’s parents to tell them about her murder, but the body of a speech-delayed toddler, Wyatt, fails her again and again. Eventually, Siwar loses hold on his mind when he undergoes a medical procedure, and her consciousness goes dormant.
Even though Siwar is no longer calling the shots, her presence still has a big effect on Wyatt’s life. We catch up with him 22 years after the operation, and not only does he have irrational obsessions with the Middle East and fears of heights, he’s also dating Siwar’s niece!
When Wyatt finds out about Siwar’s death, he becomes obsessed with finding her killer. Luckily, he still has Siwar’s consciousness in his head, and she veen takes the wheel sometimes. Together, they attempt to close a long cold case.
I was really intrigued by the premise of They Called Me Wyatt. The idea of a Jordanian woman waking up in the body of a much younger white male opens up a space to explore all kinds of things. Differences in gender, race, culture, privilege, economic status and generation all become a factor for Siwar as she adapts to her new identity.
The book does deliver on this exploration to an extent, but I would’ve like to see a bit more. I ended up being far more interested in seeing how Siwar adapted to life in Wyatt’s body and world than I was in finding out who killed her. The highlight for me was reading how Siwar compared her upbringing with her family in Jordan to Wyatt’s own, in America. Exploring those cultural and generational differences was fascinating.
For that same reason, I loved discovering this story through the eyes of Siwar. One of my favorite parts of You Called Me Wyatt was the flashbacks to Siwar’s life. Watching her fall in and out of love and figure out what romance and sexuality meant to her, all while wondering who was responsible for ending her life, made for some quick page turning.
I also really enjoyed Siwar’s commentary on American culture, and how it differed from her own. It really made me think about why we as a society do some of the things that are so ingrained in us, and what the pros and cons of those habits might be.
The book shifted to Wyatt’s perspective about half way through, which I didn’t enjoy as much. This was when the book really focused in on the murder mystery aspect. However, there was still some cool give and take between Siwar and Wyatt.
I also really liked the parts of Wyatt’s story in which he struggled to figure out what was going on inside his head, and which decisions were really his. While I would have liked to see more interaction between Siwar and Wyatt’s consciousnesses, the way the book was written helped to establish them each as individuals.
If you love reading murder mysteries, this is definitely an interesting take on one. With Wyatt and Siwar both trying to use the same body and resources to find justice, it’s like no buddy cop story you’ve ever seen before!