SWITCH by Kevin McColley


Age Range: 12 & up
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 An epileptic teenager struggles with his disease and the kidnapping of an acquaintance, Ö la Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, in this sobering mystery from McColley (Sun Dance, 1995, etc.). Ken, 17, has a hard life with his illness, and has other, related, problems: The family subsists on his mother's wages, and his smug half-brother, Leo, taunts him over the expense of Dilantin, Ken's anti-seizure medication, which he has stopped taking. In grueling passages that highlight Ken's coping skills, McColley limns the drug's side effects: Ken's gums swell painfully, and he has crippling bouts of diarrhea. When Ricky, a homeless drifter Ken had befriended, disappears, another man appears, claiming to be him, and exactly recalling conversations he and the boy have had. Ken succumbs to self-doubt--did he have a seizure that is making his mind play tricks on him?--and then becomes determined to solve the riddle; the first step is to take his medication regularly. When he discovers a ``switch,'' Ken quietly and thoroughly punishes the culprits. His subsequent epiphany that he overstepped his bounds is too easy; Ken gains confidence, but is more alone than ever. The book is overwritten and often turgid (``the heat's thickness was lessening as the evening grew''), with a recurring metaphor about half-brothers (``like ice cream and cow manure, they came from the same place, but it was best not to find them together'') that does not improve with repetition. A dank tale, admirable in its attempt to portray epilepsy realistically, but otherwise awkward and impossible to enjoy. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-689-81122-5
Page count: 217pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1997


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