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Thursday, August 27
My rating: ★★★★
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Date of publication: August 26, 2014
Age: Grades 6 - 9
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Fantasy
Themes: family relationships, middle school, friendship, self-discovery, puberty
As middle school starts, popular Jack Malloy is thinking girls have it so easy. Shy Ellie O'Brien is wishing she could be anyone but herself. And BAM! With one random wish, Jack and Ellie are living life in each other's shoes. Ellie finds an impossible-to-please father and acting like everything's cool is way tough to handle. Jack finds that facing mean girls at sleepovers and getting grilled about your period is way harder than taking a hit to the face at sports practice. They soon find that the best way to learn about yourself is spending some time in another person's shoes. But how will they ever change back?
This book is HILARIOUS. And I'm saying that in all caps because I honestly laughed out loud (rather loudly, actually, to the embarrassment of those around me) multiple times throughout the book. But guess what? I also teared up. It's heartwarming and hilarious all-in-one.
Shull does a fantastic job of revealing the depth of her two main characters through the eyes of each other—that Jack is still struggling with the death of his mom and that Ellie's lack of confidence may stem from the abandonment of her father. But Shull also manages to keep it totally lighthearted when dealing with the raging hormones and other maladies of adolescence. Be forewarned, plenty of talk about periods, boobs, peeing, and Jack's "morning tent pole" are scattered throughout. Again, hilarious, but I have trouble picturing my seventh-grade-self appreciating it.
The lack of a fifth star stems mainly from some plot mistakes. The nurse who originally "casts the spell" to switch Jack and Ellie completely disappears from the rest of the book. Also, I felt the ending dragged, and may have even been too sweet (read: hardly realistic). The dialogue as well...do middle-schoolers really talk like that? I mourn the next generation if that's the case. I gagged a bit every time Sassy Gaines said "awk."
So I'll recommend it, but probably to the older middle-school crowd, or even to parents. The empathy learned, the love gained, and the confidence built is pretty inspiring. It's a great for fans of Wendy Mass (it's a good step up from 11 Birthdays) and Goodbye Stranger.
Find it at your library or on Amazon