Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review: Sophomore Switch (McDonald)

Title: Sophomore Switch
Author: Abby McDonald
Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 297
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library
Challenges: YA
Summary (from the inside flap): Reeling from the aftershocks of what will heretofore be known as "The Hot-Tub Incident," American party girl Tasha jumps at the chance to spend a semester abroad at tweedy Oxford University--banking on the fact hat the tabloid stories about her won't have made their way across the Pond. But is wading Uggs-deep in feminist theory really so much better than living down the stares and snickers stateside?

Meanwhile, studious control freak Emily disappoints her snooty British family by throwing herself into film classes--at UC Santa Barbara. Her English accent gets her plenty of male attention, but not all of it welcome--especially the frustrating confrontations with a fellow classmate.

Review: If you want a fun book that is a fast read, but also has some weight to it, this is the book for you! But let me be honest right up front. I did not like this book right away because I felt it was too stereotyping. Here's the deal. Tasha is the southern Californian who goes to UC Santa Barbara. I grew up in Santa Barbara, earned my Masters and teaching credential at UCSB, and both my parents spent their careers working at UCSB. I was immediately defensive that all UCSB students (Tasha in particular) were portrayed as partiers, not all that smart, and just into fashion and tans. On the other side of the story is Emily who attends Oxford. My parents are both from Britain, all my relatives still live there, and my dad and cousin both graduated from Oxford. The Brits are shown as snooty, fashion-backward, and only into their studies. I found myself getting all defensive!

All that said, I really had fun reading this book once I realized that the two main characters (who alternate chapters) are stereotypical for a reason: it makes their transition in the study abroad semester more challenging. These two girls have to deal with culture shock, academic shock, loneliness, misunderstandings, and more.

What I really liked was the way the author wove in the characters figuring themselves (and others) out along the way. It wasn't sudden and fake. The journey was full of mis-steps and embarrassing moments, and some really bad judgement. But, they also discover another side to themselves that is really interesting and important. They do meet good people and bad along the way through their life lessons, but the book isn't preachy at all; it's fun!

4 comments:

Aths said...

I so don't like books that stereotype people. I can understand that some of it is to move the story forward, but that's just a plain old excuse. It's good that you found something redeeming in this book for all that time investment in reading it.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Aths--I must admit that I got over the early stereotypes and really ended up enjoying this book.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

I've reviewed Sophomore Switch now, if you'd like to read it:

http://bonniesbooks.blogspot.com/2010/10/sophomore-switch-by-abby-mcdonald-2009.html

Helen's Book Blog said...

Bonnie--I'm glad you liked Sophomore Switch. I went over to your blog and commented more over there. While there are definitely the "dude/Californians" at UCSB, there are also a lot of really good and serious students. But, that would have made for a more boring story :-)