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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: 'The Swap'

The Swap
By Megan Shull
Middle grade fantasy/contemporary setting
August 2014
Katharine Tegen Books
ISBN: 978-0062311696

Ellie's life doesn't look that great to her, especially when her best friend has a new best friend and they both ridicule her. What Ellie doesn't know is that to Jack, Ellie looks like someone who has her act together. She doesn't know the guy who looks like an in-control, popular athlete is the youngest of four brothers with a widowed father who has turned drill sergeant to keep his boys in line. He doesn't know she and her mother have been struggling to appear that everything is just fine since her dad left.

As school starts, when they both end up seeing the school nurse, they discover far more about each other from the inside out than either of them ever dreamed possible in Megan Shull's witty, wise and wonderful The Swap. Whoever that new school nurse is, she was able to switch things up so that Ellie is inside Jack's body and Jack is inside Ellie's.

The pair quickly agree to a plan that they will have a quiet weekend and try to get back to that school nurse as soon as possible. The plan, of course, goes awry because of their families and friends. But this is where Shull pulls off the fun with wisdom just underneath. Jack, as Ellie, is pampered by a mom who loves to spoil her only child. He could even get used to this spa treatment stuff. Ellie, as Jack, glories in being in with a bunch of roughneck brothers. Jack and Ellie may be in each others' bodies, but they are still themselves.

Being able to see how each other lives, Ellie and Jack also are able to take charge about the things that hurt each other the most -- Ellie's ex-best friend and Jack's distant father. As each other and acting together, they are able to accomplish things they never would have been able to do on their own. And, as they learn about the reality of each others' lives, they are not afraid to be themselves.

As these are tweens, the onset of adolescence from the other gender's point of view is handled with great humor and no vulgarity. This is one of the highlights of Shull's strategy of telling the story in each of their points of view in alternating chapters.

Although the ending at first felt a little too good to be true, it is actually far better than it might have been. Saying more would constitute spoilers, but let's just say sometimes, characters not only get what they deserve, they get an ending that is great for everyone.

©2015 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission

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