Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review: The Swap by Megan Shull

This is one of the ARCs I had to get at BEA.  And boy am I glad that I got it!!  Let me say when I picked it up to finally read it this week at first I wasn't sure because it was about middle school kids and I had mistakenly assumed it was about high school kids.  So I began, figuring I'd go ahead and give it a try since I'd wanted it so badly.

The two main characters are Ellie and Jack.  Ellie is going into 7th grade, and seems to have lost her best friend over the summer to a new girl.  Her best friend's name was Sassy.  Sassy and the new girl Aspen are what you'd call Mean Girls.  Her first days at school aren't great.  In fact when she goes to gym and is changing in the bathroom she overhears Sassy telling Aspen how she wishes certain people would get the point and stop following her around. She bursts out of the locker room crying, and plans to just walk right on out of school until she is caught by the principal.  To get out of trouble she claims she just got her period and so the principal takes her to the nurse's office.

Jack is a popular 8th grade boy.  The one that all of Ellie's friends call "The Prince" and have huge crushes on.  Not that he really knows this.  Jack is not really great around girls.  He's kind of shy.  Jack lives with his dad and 3 older brothers, and it is like their whole lives are devoted to training to play hockey.  They even have what they call a "cage" in the basement where they go in and play hockey.  Their dad isn't really very understanding it seems.  Very militant with his sons and a perfectionist.  At school this same day another boy named Porter keeps opening his big mouth to Jack, including one time shoving one of Jack's best friends so that he falls.  Well finally Porter goes far enough to kind of threaten Jack about fighting and Jack gives him what he seems to want.  Only Jack is used to fighting off three older brothers and he pretty much owns Porter, other than getting slammed into a wall and ending up with a black eye.  The principal stops the fight, and takes Jack to the nurse.  Telling him that she is going to wait until Monday to call his dad. Which is the biggest thing Jack is afraid of.  He doesn't want to have to go to the same private school that his brothers go to.  He likes the public school where all his friends are.

The nurse is a really interesting nurse, very friendly and witty, at least tries to be.  Both Ellie and Jack are in the office and kind of drift off.  The nurse says some funny little rhyme and when the two wake up they are in each others' bodies!  Now they must go home for the weekend because they can't seem to find the nurse, and hope that each won't screw up the others' life over the weekend.  Ellie must fit into this all male family with such strict rules.  Jack is now a girl with only a mom, something he's missed since his mother passed a way a few years or so ago.  It is only when they learn what they need to learn that they will be put back in their own bodies.

Yes, this is totally a "Freaky Friday" type of story.  But it is such a good one, and different because it is a boy and girl of the same age being switched.  At first I was worried what would happen with that, you know, different body parts?  But Jack has been raised to be such a gentleman that he even takes baths as Ellie with her underwear and bra on.  The deal for Ellie with boy parts is addressed pretty quickly at the start with her having to pee while they are still in the nurse's office. She also pretty much stays in Jack's boxers as much as possible.  And I just love how it goes, and how they try really hard to not ruin the others' life by trying so hard to be like what they'd expect them to be.

This is a totally happy ending book.  In fact the way it ends is something I thought early on after Jack was first enjoying being loved by Ellie's mom.  But I figured I was probably thinking the wrong way.  So glad I was not.  I mean I ended this book with probably a really huge, stupid smile on my face.  It left me feeling so good.  And whether you think that is realistic or not, sometimes it is nice to have the perfect ending.  And it was perfect, feel-good, you name it!  Oh my gosh I'm just not sure I can really say how much I loved this book.  And to anyone who just hates Ellie at the beginning, let me just say this.  Yeah, she's a whiny brat to her mom.  But, as someone who taught middle-schoolers for 17 years, and 7th graders for probably 15 of those years, can I say that it is realistic?  Not for all girls, no. But for girls dealing with these types of things?  Divorced parents, best friends turning mean and deserting you?  Yes.  So realistic. And as the book goes, Ellie grows, and I grew to love her too.  At the end, when she sees Jack's brothers again after they've switched back?  The way she felt, I just wanted to be with her and tell her to go ahead and go up and hug them, even though they wouldn't have understood why she did that, they had no idea she'd been Jack that one weekend.  Love, love, love!  Now I guess you could say I'm even more excited that I got to meet the author at BEA this summer.  And here is my picture with her.

Me with Megan Shull

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