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Sophomore Switch    by Abby McDonald order for
Sophomore Switch
by Abby McDonald
Order:  USA  Can
Candlewick, 2009 (2009)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Last minute decisions and unusual circumstances - both involving failed relationships - result in a most unusual - and very entertaining - culture clash of a Sophomore Switch in Abbby McDonald's delightful new YA novel.

Quiet, studious, focused and a control freak, Emily Lewis keeps her pain private after being dumped by her boyfriend Sebastian for being 'afraid of intimacy.' However, in an unusual moment of rebellion, she goes against her family's wishes, and applies for an international exchange program. She accepts one she would not have normally considered - at University of California in Santa Barbara - where she's mortified to discover that she's switched with a film major.

Flamboyant American Tasha Collins' brief hot tub fling with teen reality TV star Tyler Trask not only hit the tabloids but the footage ended up all over the Internet. Her mother and stepfather no longer talking to her (once they stopped yelling), Tasha begged for an out via the exchange program. She ended up taking Emily's courses at Oxford. There, her uber-feminist Theory of Politics prof, Susanne Elliot, condescends to her and her peers ignore her.

Though each does her best to adapt, neither Emily not Natasha fits in easily with her new surroundings. Both are getting desperate when Natasha opens a new line of communication by emailing Emily. Though they are very different personalities, a strong friendship grows between the two as each writes a switch survival guide for the other.

Examining and changing their lives ('Trying to be a different part of yourself'), each grows in important ways, and discovers her own strengths. Em learns that film can be creative and challenging and that she's not at all afraid of intimacy, while Tash morphs from party girl to activist and accepts the fact that 'it's not just a straight choice between waving placards and making out with five guys a night on a dare.'

Sophomore Switch is an engaging story with good lessons about life, liaisons, the importance of true friendship, and about finding your own path as opposed to fulfilling parental or peer expectations.

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