2 October 2009

Review: LIFE SWAP by Abby McDonald

"Take an administrative snafu, a bad break-up, and what shall heretofore be known as “The Hot-Tub Incident”, and you’ve got two thoroughly unprepared sophomores on a semester abroad. For American party girl Tasha, an escape to tweedy Oxford may be a chance to ditch her recent fame as a tabloid temptress, but wading Uggs-deep in feminist theory is not her idea of a break. Meanwhile, the British half of the exchange, studious control-freak Emily, nurses an aching heart amid the bikinis and beer pong of U. C. Santa Barbara. Soon desperation has the girls texting each other tips – on fitting in, finding love and figuring out who they really are. With an anthropologist’s eye for cultural detail and a true ear for teen-speak, exciting new novelist Abigail McDonald crafts a very funny, fast-paced, poignant look at survival, sisterhood, and the surprising ways we discover our true selves."
I've been looking forward to reading this book for months and I was so happy when I finally received my copy for review (many thanks to Walker Books for sending it!) I started reading it immediately and I'm pleased to say the book lived up to my expectations!

As you can tell from the blurb, it's a story about two girls who are running away from either a scandal or a break up and are trying to rediscover themselves so they decide to take part in an exchange that requires them to change swap their lives for a few months. The girls couldn't be more different (learn more about them at the official book site) so in the process of switching lives with each other they also learn a lot about themselves.

The story itself is simple and maybe a bit predictable, but still great fun to read. Everything is so vividly described that I could just picture all the action and I think the story would make a great film, which I'd definitely watch! As for the book, I found it well written (especially since the author is so young (24/my age!!) and this is her debut) and very easy to read. The voices of the two main characters were nicely distinguished and I could easily tell which one of them was telling the story without checking at the beginning of the chapter. However, I did find the characters slightly stereotypical, but luckily that didn't affect my enjoyment of the story, I still got sucked right in and nearly finished it in one sitting. Personally, I could really relate to Emily - there were a few things about her that read quite close to home, hehe.

One thing though: back at home, Tasha was involved in this "scandal" when she was caught in a hot tub topless and making out with another girl's boyfriend and the story made it into all the tabloids etc. Anyway, I couldn't really comprehend why the characters in the second half of the book were making such a big deal out of it?! Sure, it's not something to be proud of, but surely it's not bad enough to break up friendships? Personally, I thought the UK characters very really overreacting, especially in this day and age when nudity is hardly a big deal. Yes, she was caught drunk and topless and making out with a taken guy, but she's a teenager and it happened months ago - I understand the parents were majorly upset and it affected her US friendships, but I couldn't really see why such a silly thing would undermine the whole project she was working on? I thought Will's reaction was particularly out of character and I admit I was sort of disappointed with him when he seemed like such a nice guy.

On the whole, I really enjoyed this novel, just like I expected to! It's a quick and simple read, but very enjoyable - pure escapism! The book was originally published in the US as Sophmore Switch and it even has its own website, which you can check out here. The cover is below on the left and next to it is the original UK cover, which was later changed to the one you can see above.

Which of the three do you prefer?
Personally, I can't really decide between the UK ones - I think I like the original (pink & grey) one better since it's more elegant, but the new one stands out far more (even though I'm not too sure about the pink & orange combination) and that's always a plus. At least none of the irritates me and I think it's great when the cover matches the story, and in this case it sure does in any case so I can't complain!

overall rating: 4/5
plot: 4/5 | writing: 4/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 4/5


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