Friday, April 02, 2010

Books I Can't Live Without: The Changeover

I have no hope of any current young adult fiction authors reading this, alas. If they did I would tell them to sit up, pay attention and take note. I'm talking about a piece of genius in their genre.

I have read a lot of YA fiction recently (see my goodreads list if you don't believe me) and while it's entertaining, it very seldom has any resonance or meaning. Not so with The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance. I will come right out and say that the only issue I've ever had with this book is that the title might lead people to believe the book is more frilly and superfluous than it actually is.

I came across this gem when I was about 14 or 15, right around the same age as our protagonist, Laura Chant. Rather than trying to sum up the whole plot, I'll let the back of the book do that for me...

"One Morning, Laura Chant wakes with the knowledge that something terrible is about to happen.
 Laura has belt this way before, for she has the ability to see and sense things that other people can'. But this time the worst happens: Laura's little brother Jacko becomes the victim of a creature who wants to destroy him. The only way Laura can save Jacko is to join forces with her mysterious classmate Sorensen Carlisle, who is able to help her "change over" and use her supernatural powers to their fullest. Together, will they have enough power to confront the dark forces that loom over them?"

Laura has a lot going on in her life. She and her little brother have been estranged from their father for years, their mother makes little money and they always seem to be broke, and Laura is beginning to become self-aware in the way that only developing teenage girls are. She recognizes these natural changes for their strangeness and power, and at the same time is puzzled by them. What teenage girl has NOT felt that way? Even better, Sorensen or "Sorry" as they call him, is too becoming aware of her body in a way that is totally natural for teenage boys. Stephanie Meyer really messed up YA fiction by making it so damned chaste. This book is very frank about sexual attraction. One such exchange goes...

"So take a deep breath, Chant. You're no worse off and you might be better off...and at least you're not quite on your own with it anymore."
     This was true. Laura did take a deep breath and realized as she did that Sorry was not watching her face, but the rise and fall of the breath under her old pajama jacket. He sighed himself, met her eyes, and gave her a smile both deprecating and conciliatory. "You did invite me in," he pointed out, "even though you knew I was a mixed blessing."

You never catch Edward Cullen (or even Jacob!) staring at Bella's boobs, and I think the book suffers for it!

Sorry is not the typical love interest. He's a bit lost, loves romance novels (for "research") and drives a Vespa. His efforts to win Laura are so confused and at the same time earnest, we know he's in love with her before he realizes it himself.

I've read a lot of books, I was reading Pet Cemetary and IT before I was 12 and I will tell you that there has seldom been a character as creepy as Carmody Braque. When I read the young adult fiction now and see their ideas of bad guys I have to laugh. They have no faith in their audience! In most cases, the bad guy turns out to be another Hot Guy with Strange Specialness just like the Hero. The girl in the story will either get beat up a little or will cower in a corner while someone else rescues her. "Stop fighting! I'm FRAIL!"

Margaret Mahy was not afraid to deliver a good villain, though he's absent for a good part of the book. Nor was she afraid to deliver a good Hero. In this case, Laura is more the hero than Sorry. Girlfriend is not afraid to get the job done!

But you don't have to totally take my word for it, check out the reader reviews at


Sleep Goblin said...

I'm seriously loving your book reviews. This is going on my to read list. Are we friends on there??

Bee said...

Just sent you a friend request!