________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 21. . . .June 12, 2009.


Sophomore Switch.

Abby McDonald.
Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press (Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada), 2009.
297 pp., hardcover, $20.00.
ISBN 978-0-7636-3936-5.

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Betsy Fraser.





She glances away, and then it hits me. To her, I’m just the dumb Californian, the party girl who just doesn’t need to be here. She knows it doesn’t matter if I flunk, because I’ll just go back home to my film classes. The other kids actually need to work hard, to be smart, to succeed. But not me.

The truth stings me hard behind my rib cage. My work is "fine," but she’s still writing me off just because I wear cute skirts and keep my hair blown out. It’s clear she’s never seen Legally Blonde. Aren’t smart people supposed to be above this kind of blatant discrimination?

Initially Emily and Tasha, both college students, saw their semester’s exchange as a chance to get away from everything wrong in their lives, but neither of them had any inkling of the lives into which they were stepping. Emily, a British control freak with a penchant for political theory and a desire to escape her evil ex, is not prepared for the bikinis and beer pong she finds in Southern California. Party-girl Tasha jumps at the anonymity she will have in Oxford, where no one will have heard of "the Hot-Tub Incident" that landed her in the newspapers and on television. Never mind that she can’t blend in with the other students, knows next to nothing about feminist theory and finds the students both snobby and dull. Emily and Tasha are each other’s only hope, giving each other lessons in how to fit in with their surroundings. Slowly, the girls realize that they may have misjudged not only each other but themselves.

     Sophomore Switch is a fresh, fast-paced and funny look at two young women. Both characters show definite growth and are fully realized. It is a treat to follow along with them as they go through their exchange, make friends and develop into young women with many more interesting possibilities for their futures. Ironically, much like Elle in Legally Blonde, Tasha has both worthy and unworthy teachers at Oxford and is able be a responsible person, earning the admiration of another mentor. Emily’s journey takes her from a straitlaced, uptight, clichéd Brit entirely focussed on her family’s plan for her life to a more casual teenager with a relationship, a true talent for film and an offer of a summer internship. Sophomore Switch has definite possibilities for a sequel.

Highly Recommended.

Betsy Fraser is the Community Outreach Librarian at the Calgary Public Library´s Crowfoot library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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