The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 3rd 2018 by Orion Children’s Books 
Source: Publisher

She looked at the soft sky. Only a few minutes before, it had been simple, clear, and beautiful, but now she felt all summer leaning its weight against the house, breathing a hot and wolfish breath at her.

Margaret Mahy’s books formed a huge part of childhood reading. Her stories offered me a portal into a world of magic and mystery. I remember thirsting after her books in a place where books aren’t readily available. I remember magic staircases and circuses and if you were to ask me what the title was, I don’t think I could tell you but I remember the magic.

I have read The Changeover thrice and have been enchanted every single time. I read it once as a child and twice as an adult and in each reading, I noticed something new. Here’s the back copy:

The face in the mirror. From the moment she saw it, Laura Chant knew that something dreadful was going to happen. It wasn’t the first time she’d been forewarned. But never before had anything so terrible happened. The horrifyingly evil Carmody Braque touched and branded her little brother – and now Jacko was very ill, getting steadily worse.
There was only one way to save him. Laura had to change over: had to release her supernatural powers. And that meant joining forces with the extraordinary and enigmatic Sorenson Carlisle…

The novel is perfect for Halloween season. It brings delicious chills and delicious boys and prose that sinks into your skin until you are immersed in the story. You feel the chill of the morning ear and the rank stench from the antagonist. Laura’s journey into her own self is fascinating as are the many female characters in the novel.

Contemporary YA readers will be enchanted by the way Mahy weds the practical with the magical. The shadow cast by the morning sun is sinister because she writes it. The smile a boy gives is full of hope as well as blades because we all walk on edges.

The romance is one of my favourite parts of the novel. It feels real in a way not many authors succeed.

“I’ll kiss you because I want to,” said Laura, “not because you do.”

“I’ll settle for that,” Sorry replied, “but be gentle with me.”

However, he was not gentle with himself and neither was Laura. Thunder munched around the edge of the clouded sky. Sorry looked up and smiled.

I like that though romance is a big part of Laura’s life, she recognizes that it is not everything and I feel like this is one thing many YA novels lack. This awareness that love is very nice but not having it immediately doesn’t mean you never will.

The supernatural aspect of The Changeover is fantastic. More than that, it is superbly woven into the narrative. Sorenson Carlisle, Sorry, is a wonderfully flawed and complex character. We see him through Laura’s eyes and she doesn’t quite see him with rose-tinted glasses which is what makes everything all the more interesting.

If you are in the mood for a beautiful and atmospheric read that fits in well with the current season, you ought to read The Changeover. You will thank me later for the recommendation.