Book Review – The Changeover by Margaret Mahy
I first read The Changeover when I was in secondary school and regularly read it in my teens. I remember that I enjoyed it very much, not just for the romance or the supernatural elements but more so for the depiction of people and their interactions.
There were different family units all with strong women providing a home. Yet this wasn’t limited to females, all characters including supernatural ones are well rounded, developed and in some cases fascinating.
The Changeover is about Laura who is a sensitive to supernatural portents. She is often forewarned but not in a clear, helpful way when there are important events that impact on her life. Laura lives with her mum (Kate) and little brother(Jacko) in New Zealand and they are a tight unit due to the divorce and their limited financial resources. Jacko is targeted by an entity who steals life forces to exist and it is a race against time to overcome and reverse this terrible incident. Enter the Carlisle family who are witches and Sorenson who is a senior (6 former) at Laura’s school. Laura is the only one who knows that Sorry is a witch…and he is the only one she thinks can help her in this fraught situation.
If that synopsis is too oblique, then please read the one at Goodreads
What I love first
The author, knows her characters so well: be it regretful grandmother, lonely divorcee or self satisfied housewife. and the way she expressed their behaviour is wonderful. We get the superficial surface expression but also the deeper motivation shared in an insightful way, gently teased out the same way you get to know someone in real life through different events and engagements.
My favourite character is Sorenson, who is…utter perfection. I realise now that he was my ideal fictional boyfriend when I was a teen: vulnerable, honest but strong and daring too. However he isn’t an idealised hero, he is real. Sorry’s backstory, the way his foster family history is retold is powerful, truthful and astute about human nature. Being a witch is intrinsic, as much as his eye colour, the explanations of a difference you can’t change about yourself is…words fail me. I don’t have the words to say how much I love this book and admire the author’s skill in depicting the vulnerability of youth and circumstance.
The themes about family, sibling relationships, seeking relationships after divorce, finding love in unexpected places. Even the notion of what love is, how it feels and is expressed differently depending on your point of view and your inherent personality is sublime.
“We are a fond family rather than a loving one, so consideration is doubly important. We can’t afford to abandon it as loving families may choose to do out of confidence in themselves”Winter Carlisle , witch
What I love second
As is important is the changeover, which could be interpreted in many ways other than the literal. I choose to view it as remaking yourself through nature (the effects of puberty) and also the conscious choices to become the person you want to be, perhaps who you were destined to be.
This for me makes the role of the big bad crucial, yet secondary to more prominent themes.
Why you would be bereft
Please read this book, even you think these topic are not for you because it’s not just about those themes, it about excellent writing, real personalities which live off the page and the feeling of well being that remains with you for a long time after reading it, indeed every time you remember a scene or dialogue.
In my case, I had a contented glow and half smile for the remainder of the day once I had finished reading The Changeover. Which is now back on my face whilst writing this review.
5 stars – it was amazing