Have you ever wished you were someone else? I have. During the royal wedding fever, I thought about how amazing it would be to be Kate Middleton. Reading Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, I think of how it must feel to be J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins and know that you’ve touched the lives of so many readers. Heck, I look at people in my karate class who can easily do spinning back kicks without falling on their butt and wish I had their ability.
Andrea Birch, in Tish Cohen’s Switch, is no different. The only biological child of a foster family, she’s overwhelmed by responsibility (she gives up a modeling gig and free clothes to buy baby formula, reluctantly but otherwise without complaint) and wishes she could be Joules Adams, only child of rock star Nigel Adams. Andrea describes Joules as “not exactly human… This polish of what I can only describe as authenticity that covers every inch of her being like fairy dust.” Plus, Joules’ boyfriend is the love of Andrea’s life, Will Sherwood. So it’s easy to see why Andrea wishes to be her. Unlike us, however, Andrea does get her wish, and, as usually happens in this type of story, ends up learning that in many ways, she’s actually the lucky one.
Switch is a fun, entertaining read, and definitely a fresh take on the classic Freaky Friday story. I love that Cohen chooses to keep this book only within Andrea’s perspective, rather than switching back and forth between Andrea’s and Joules’ accounts. This makes the story more about how Andrea changes rather than how both girls have to adapt to very different lifestyles, which may have been more comedic (spoiled rich girl having to deal with diapers and half a dozen foster kids!), but might also have been less touching.
Real is an odd word to use about a book that has teenagers switching bodies, but Andrea’s problems are very real. Foster parenting is a difficult undertaking, and I applaud those who give so much of themselves to take care of other people’s children. Lots of books have also talked about the difficulties of being a foster child. But Switch has made me think about what it must be like to be the only biological child in such a family. Sure, Andrea is the only one allowed to call her parents Mom and Dad, but her parents also take it for granted that she has a perfect life, and so lavish more attention on the foster kids. It also struck home how Andrea could never allow herself to form strong friendships with the foster kids, because sooner or later, they’ll be transferred to another family.
There are a couple of things about Switch that I didn’t really like. Andrea just seemed too perfect. Immediately after she switched bodies with Joules, she already wanted to switch back and help her mom out with the kids. I agree that this is within her character — she really is super responsible — and shows how much she really loves her family. I also understand how she might worry that Joules is a completely incompetent baby-sitter and won’t be able to take care of the kids. But I kept thinking, if I were in her shoes, I’d totally spend at least a day or so living it up as Joules Adams. Andrea does enjoy having Will as her boyfriend, but I thought she’d enjoy having no kids around a bit more.
Even though I like that Cohen chose to focus on Andrea’s narrative, I’m also very interested in Joules’ story. She struck me as a very complex, possibly more interesting character, and by the end of the book, she ends up having to change so much more than Andrea does. I’d love to know what happens to her after the events of Switch. Those who’ve read the book, anyone agree with me?
Overall, a very good book. Even though Andrea sometimes comes off as too good, she does change after the switch, and becomes much more appreciative of her life. Nigel Adams is a rich, compelling character. I love how Cohen hints that, despite Andrea’s rose-coloured glasses view of him for most of the book, he actually has a lot of his own issues, and Joules has had to deal with those her whole life. I also love how, despite his issues, Nigel clearly very much loves Joules, and how it takes Andrea in Joules’ body to notice it. I love the quirky grandmother, and love how she gives only Andrea the weird things she picks up on her travels. Andrea doesn’t usually appreciate them, but they’re totally my kind of gift.