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SOPHOMORE SWITCH by Abby McDonald Kirkus Star


by Abby McDonald

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: March 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3936-5
Publisher: Candlewick

When Tasha’s hot-tub exploits hit the tabloids and Emily’s boyfriend dumps her, they both look for a quick escape from college. An exchange program provides an opportunity, provided they do a complete swap: Tasha’s sunny U.C. Santa Barbara for Emily’s Oxford in chilly England. Tasha, a blond, tan party-girl, vows to make the most of top-tier Oxford by staying away from booze and sticking to her studies. Emily, an anal-retentive academic all-star, wants to loosen up and enjoy the beachy scene at UCSB. The girls supply funny, self-deprecating narration in alternating chapters, and their distinct voices highlight marked differences in attitudes and aesthetics. When both suffer humiliation attempting to fit in, they e-mail each other for help. What seems like a formulaic plot takes interesting, unexpected directions as the girls navigate unfamiliar terrain, face unexpected cruelties and discover new parts of themselves. Important questions emerge from this frothy novel: Can’t smart girls embrace frivolity, beauty and sexuality without guilt? Can’t they have fun and be serious too? McDonald cleverly answers. Her ostensibly simple, bubble-gum debut is actually chock-full of substance. (Fiction. 14 & up)