Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

This review is dedicated to Maree of Just Add Books.

I have to admit I wasn't sure what to think about this book, and whether or not I would like it. The cover is so 80s and also it's described as being both sci-fi and a paranormal romance--things that typically I find to be a turn off. But alas this is a special case and a huge thing the book had going for it is that it's YA! So I plunged in.

It is not sci-fi. Also, I guess it's a paranormal romance? But that's really not the focus of the book just a side benefit. So those fears were unfounded. I actually ended up really enjoying this book and reading it in a day so it was a nice surprise.

In some ways it reminded me a bit of the only book I've read by Karen Healy which...well it might just be me lumping all books from New Zealand together, but they both had supernatural elements that were kind of strange/unique. But that was not the draw of this book to me, it's the very lovely writing, the deep and heartfelt relationships, the way Mahy nails so many of the details of growing up and the way you feel as you begin to change and attempt to understand yourself. It felt rich in that regard, so much more than a simple fantastical plot.

And also it was kind of different because while Laura was the main character, I felt her mother, Kate was often given a POV as well. She was painted really sympathetically and as more than just the parent figure that must be reacted to! While her actions certainly led to Laura having to think about a lot of stuff in her own life and make her own decisions, she was so much more than just the absentee mother or overprotective parent or whatnot. Like, I felt like the relationship just really accurately depicted the growing pains a young teen girl might face in her relationship with her mother in a way that was kind of unique.

Anyway, basic plot! Laura's younger brother get this funky mark and then becomes really sick and Laura's pretty sure something evil is afoot as he is getting worse and worse and she knows who has done it, but she doesn't know exactly what to do about it. And she knows, because she JUST KNOWS that this dude that is older and goes to her school and is called Sorry is a witch. So she goes to him and his family helps her and she takes on a great risk to herself, etc.

Let's discuss the romance in this because quite frankly it wasn't very romantic to me. And I don't think it was necessarily supposed to be? Like I don't think I was necessarily supposed to have swooney feelings over it, but what do I know it was written in the 80s. Oh I don't think I was supposed to have bad feelings about it either, though. Anyway it's just kind of a huuuge turnoff how Sorry is all touching her when she doesn't want it and putting pictures of her up in his room that he took in secret and talking about her sexy legs, etc and generally making her uncomfortable enough to suggest what he's doing borders on sexual harassment, lol. But at the same time, the text gives plenty of reasons why the reader should understand that Sorry didn't have a normal childhood and is just kind of struggling through it all himself. It doesn't excuse him, it just helps you understand where he's coming from in a way in which it's possible to have sympathy for him without thinking his actions are right. And he wants to change and sort of does and so...I don't know. Forgiven. Just no swooney feelings, lol.

I am very interested in how books hold up over time, particularly YA books because of how huge of a role technology plays in our lives NOW, but how it's sort of ignored in books that seem to want a lasting place. Like when I reread The Vampire Diaries a couple of years ago, I was like EVERYONE WOULD BE CALLING ELENA ON HER CELL PHONE NOW. They wouldn't be going around just wondering where she is, you know? But, one of the things that really works in The Changeover's favor are the financial troubles of the family. You can get away with no cell phones when you have no money! So yay for that. But even apart from that the book holds up really well for the simple reason that it addresses and explores timeless truth.

This is a delightfully rich book, by which I mean the writing and the characters feel full and true. The fact that the fantastical elements were sort of hard for me to buy is easily forgotten because of how wonderful the writing is. It was a very pleasant surprise because YES I WAS SKEPTICAL. I enjoyed the read! I wanted to share with you some of the pretty quotes, there is this gorgeous one about time and wounds, but alas I have already misplaced my copy. Why does this always happen to me?

Happy Holidays, Maree! I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey into New Zealand lit and that I didn't let you down!

PS. I really wanted to include the cover I had because it is DREADFUL. But alas I couldn't find it.


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