Switch by T. Cohen

Cohen, Tish. Switch. Toronto: HarperCollinsCanada, 2011. Print.

This novel is a light, contemporary retelling of Mary Rodgers' “Freaky Friday”, with the body-switch occurring between two teenage girls. Andrea Birch lives with her parents and varying numbers of foster-siblings in a messy, eccentric household. Her father is a kind, nerdy man obsessed with the weather channel and her mother spends her time parenting children who have come to stay with the Birches from their own troubled homes. In contrast, Joules Adams lives in a huge house with her rock-star father and seems to have everything that Andrea does not: glamour, money, and a boyfriend who is coincidentally the object of Andrea's unrequited love. When the magical switch happens, Andrea learns how much she really values her own, unglamourous home.

Switch is a smooth, fast-paced read. Cohen has written a believable, likable character in Andrea, and presents nuanced portraits of other, flawed characters, such as the aging star Nigel Adams. However, Andrea comes to recognize what her family gives her almost too quickly; her eagerness to enjoy some of the benefits of Joules' life is continuously constrained by her own sense of morality and obedience. The switch seems uncomfortable for her almost from the start. I also found an irritation in the switch catalyst, a pair of “magic” red rubber gloves that Andrea's grandmother bought from a “fortune-teller” in Africa; Cohen presents the continent of Africa as a prop to explain the switch, in a way that serves only to suggest “Africa” as a mysterious, othered culture. This seems flippant and is a shame, as Cohen has written other aspects of the story in a more socially-realistic manner, such as her allusions to the stories of the Birch foster kids and parents. The ending is also summarized too quickly and too neatly in comparison to the rest of the story.

Recommended with reservations: 2.5 stars out of 4
Reviewer: Allison Sivak

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.20361/G28305