Release Date: August 26, 2014
"You be me... and I'll be you.”
Ellie spent the summer before seventh grade getting dropped by her best friend since forever. Jack spent it training in “The Cage” with his tough-as-nails brothers and hard-to-please dad. By the time middle school starts, they’re both ready for a change. And just as Jack’s thinking girls have it so easy, Ellie’s wishing she could be anyone but herself.
Then, BAM! They swap lives—and bodies!
Now Jack’s fending off mean girls at sleepover parties while Ellie’s reigning as the Prince of Thatcher Middle School. As their crazy weekend races on—and their feelings for each other grow—Ellie and Jack begin to realize that maybe the best way to learn how to be yourself is to spend a little time being someone else.
Here’s the thing: this book made me feel incredibly old. The Swap is a pretty cute contemporary middle grade book that I am certain I would have loved when I was twelve, but unfortunately, didn’t do much for me now. The thing is that at multiple points throughout the story, I felt way too old for this book, rolling my eyes at things the characters did and said because a) I have read it all before, and 2) everything (and everyone) in the story was just a little underdeveloped and cliché. I know that with a preference for YA and even middle grade books, this was bound to happen at some point, but no book has ever made me feel as old as The Swap did. I am certain that younger readers will adore this book, just like I know I would have when I was younger, but for now, I really couldn’t get invested in the story. Even though I still quite enjoyed reading it and I flew through it, there are many things that didn’t work for me, which is too bad.
The Swap is about Ellie, a kind girl getting cast out by her best friend, who happened to be the queen b(itch) of their middle grade school. I didn’t really get Ellie, because it seemed like she only spoke in grunts and “yeah”s to her mom and other authority figures, even though she was so young. The best friend was awful. She is by far one of the most hateful characters I have ever met – and I have met A LOT of terrible characters. She was 100% bitch. The story is also about Jack, who was nicknamed The Prince because he was obviously perfect in every way. Well, his home life was pretty crappy. His military dad made him and his brothers get up at five in the morning, because that is obviously normal. I liked this part of the story though, because Jack’s brothers were so lovely to him and even though it was barely worked out, their relationship with their dad was better at the end, which was nice.
My biggest issues with this book were the body shift in itself, the epilogue, and the dialogue. The nurse who cast the curse (?) that made Jack and Ellie switch bodies only appeared once, and we never actually find out what happens. I understand that these kinds of body switches happen because of something strange, but the fact that the nurse is nothing but a plot device with no explanation as to what she did/how she did it/why she did it really didn’t work in this case. The epilogue, on the other hand, made me cringe. It is something I know twelve-year-old me would have loved, but twenty-one-year-old me couldn’t stop rolling her eyes. Everything is too perfect, a Happily Ever After in the most ridiculous sense of the term. And then there’s the dialogue, especially conversations between Jack’s brothers and the Mean Girls, which made me roll my eyes and/or stare at my e-reader in confusion. Here are two examples:
“That tarp is absolutely disgusting,” says Stryker.
“Huh?” I say.
“That shirt, it’s brutal.” Gunner shakes his head, half grinning. “No swag, bro. How can you expect to wheel with that thing on your back? Maybe mix in some style, bud.”
Jett chimes in. “Pretty grungy, if you ask me.”
Sassy: Oh. Em. Geeee! That’s so hot. Boo, we definitely gotta hang soon! You’re going to Claire’s tomorrow right?
Tori: Yes!!! Soooo excited! Can. Not. Wait.
Sassy: Chicka-chicka-yeah-yeah. [They high-five.]
Tori: Hopefully a certain someone knows she’s not invited.
Sassy: Stop, no, ewwwww, barf. Don’t remind me!
Do kids talk like that? I have two brothers, one who is eleven and one who is nineteen, and while we speak Dutch instead of English, I have never heard them use language like that. Nor do I remember talking like Sassy and her minions at the end of primary school or the beginning of high school. And I’d be lying if I didn’t roll my eyes at some of the characters’ names. Gunner, Sassy, Stryker, seriously? Everything was just so over the top that it made me cringe. I do really like that this is mostly a story about friendship, instead of the romance the summary suggests. The Swap is about overcoming your insecurities, learning to stand up for yourself, making new friends and letting go of things that aren’t good for you, and I do like the way both Ellie and Jack grow for the better throughout the story. I also love that View Spoiler »it focuses on friendship rather than romance. Jack and Ellie never fall in love, like I was certain they would, but rather, form an amazing friendship. « Hide Spoiler I thought they were adorable together.
All in all, The Swap was too black-and-white for me. Good characters were good, bad characters were bad, body shifts happen without any explanation, happily ever afters are too perfect, and everything you could ever dream of happens. I know that younger readers will really enjoy this story (maybe not too young, because they talk about morning erections and periods a lot, but still), but I just wish it had been a little more realistic and focused on the in-between areas as well. Not every bitchy characters is just a bitch, and body switches are not something that should just occur without any explanation. Mostly, I disliked the stereotypes. We learn more about the guy Jack has to deal with, but the mean girl best friend is really just a bitch. Is this what we should be learning younger readers? The overall story is pretty fun and I think Jack and Ellie’s friendship is endearing, but I had too many issues with this story to fully enjoy it.
No quotes were particularly memorable to me.