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The Changeover

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  2,708 Ratings  ·  244 Reviews
Carnegie medal-winning supernatural romance from Margaret Mahy.

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 ve
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 1st 1994 by Puffin Books (first published 1984)
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I love this book so much that when I could no longer find it at a public library, I hunted it down on the used market. (That probably doesn't sound like a big deal, but it's been one of my public library repeat reads since I was a kid; it was like an every three years ritual for me.)

Do I still love this book now? Yes. It's scary, sensual (in a non-graphic way), smart, magical, empowering and in many other ways fabulous. Plus, it's set in New Zealand, which as a kid growing up in one of the landl
TheEagerReaders Violet
This book is overflowing with excellence. From the perfectly described details of Laura Chant's everyday family life to her charmingly atypical romantic suitor to the threat of a truly sinister villain, The Changeover is a terrific coming-of-age story with a paranormal twist. For a novel written twenty-six years ago, this book does not feel dated, and it quickly found its way onto my favorites shelf to be read again and again.

What I Liked:
- The beautiful and precise prose. Even the mundane deta
Feb 10, 2008 Sherrie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book WAY back in like 8th grade, (were talking over 20 years ago) and although i generally DESPISE romances, this book has always had a soft spot in my heart. Maybe because it has a subplot about Witchcraft at a time when i was becoming drawn to Wicca. Maybe because its "voice" was non patronizing and dealt with issues often not discussed in YA lit at the time, like child abuse,personal transformation, and all the hormonal confusion that comes with emerging sexuality for adolescents. ...more
Dylan Horrocks
Sep 01, 2014 Dylan Horrocks rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy-sf
Two lines to demonstrate why I love this book:

"Outside in the city, traffic lights changed colours, casting quick spells of prohibition and release."


"Given the chance to be cruel did you get cruelty out of your system by acting on the chance, or did you invite it in?"

This book is beautifully written, but more importantly it is smart, wise, thoughtful, morally complex and intensely human. As a bonus (although really this is central to the novel), it's also shot through with a powerful sexualit
Originally posted here.

The novel is set in the 80s in Gardendale, New Zealand, where Laura Chant lives with her mother, Kate, and her three-year-old brother, Jacko. The story starts with Laura getting a premonition, a warning of sorts that something terrible will happen. She tells her mother who shrugs it off as irrelevant. Laura is forced to ignore it and she goes to school. At the end of her school day, she picks up Jacko at the babysitter's and they pass by an antique store on their way home.
Oct 12, 2016 Wealhtheow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, ya, 2nd-floor
Laura is a fairly ordinary teenager, dealing with the quotidian worries of being raised by a single mom without enough money in an unsafe area of town. She sees just a little bit more than most people, and when a strange old shopkeeper puts a handstamp on her little brother, she realizes that he's done something terrible. As her little brother Jacko gets rapidly sicker, Laura goes to the one person she suspects of witchcraft: the too-smooth prefect at her school, Sorensen "Sorry" Carlisle. But i ...more
Kris Larson
What I love most about this story about a girl who becomes a witch to save her brother is the way the heroine wakes up to the world throughout the book. Everything develops identity and importance, even telegraph poles and toasters.

"Every telegraph pole stood centred on a single leg gathering wires up, looping them over little stunted arms, and Laura felt her way into being a telegraph pole, or a roof rising to a ridge and butting against itself. The Baptist church squared its concrete shoulders
YA Fantasy. An evil spirit has marked Laura Chant's little brother and the only place she can turn is to Sorry Carlisle, seventh form prefect and witch. I have read this book so many times I've lost count. It's the perfect mix of magic and romance and the mundane details of family life. It also takes place in New Zealand, which makes it all the more adorable to me, because Laura might find it boring but it's got a magic quality of its own. It's a very short book, but packs a lot in, and the endi ...more
Mel Campbell
I read this beloved Carnegie Medal-winner when I was a kid. I recently found it in an op-shop and bought it for nostalgia's sake, and then today at lunch I was sprinkling salt on sliced tomato on bread, and remembered this was the snack the Carlisle witches feed to Laura. It made me want to read the book tonight, and I devoured it in a single sitting of perhaps three hours.

As a kid I focused on the everyday aspects of the book – the familiar place names and shops and habits – because I was searc
Laura is a girl a little bit separate, with just enough of the Sight to see things which are different, to receive warnings about important things. She received a warning when her father left her family for another. She received a warning about Sorensen (Sorry) Carlisle - the ever-so-perfect prefect, who she knows very well is only pretending to be a model student to distract from his witchy nature.

The biggest warning, however, is about her beloved brother Jacko, and she doesn't know what to do
Nov 06, 2015 Rachel rated it it was amazing
This is the book that first introduced me to the supernatural. I first read it the year it came out (I was 11) and from that moment on I wanted to read more. It led me to fanfiction before I knew what fanfiction was - and WELL before the internet, when I tried to envisage what would happen after the ending (even though I knew it was finished), and pushed me on the path to reading Dracula and the multitude of vampiric, witchcraft-based and all the things that go bump in the night. It pushed me to ...more
Jeanne Stumbaugh
Oct 23, 2015 Jeanne Stumbaugh rated it it was amazing
This was the first Margaret Mahy book I ever read and I fell in love with this woman's writing within minutes of cracking open the first page.

This is one of the books that is on my yearly reading list, meaning that I read this book every single year. Sometimes more than once.

The writing is beautiful, and richly imaginative. You'll be reading along and it's good, plain writing, but then suddenly you'll find yourself tangled up in such gorgeous prose that you just have to sit there and read over i
Aug 04, 2013 Punk rated it it was amazing
YA Fantasy. Laura Chant's little brother is being drained by a malevolent spirit and she's the only one who knows. Her mother takes him to the hospital, but Laura goes to Sorensen Carlisle, 7th form prefect and witch, for help.

This is one of my favorite books. I've read it countless times, starting back when I was just a teenager myself. The last time I read it was August 2007, and I didn't have a single qualm about it. Six years later, older and wiser, I picked it up again but was worried that
Aug 03, 2010 Nancy rated it really liked it
Laura's life is complicated. Her father, absorbed by his new wife, never visits; her mom is beginning to see other men. Her little brother Jacko is acting strangely since they encountered a very unpleasant old man in a shop. And there's a boy at school that she thinks is probably a witch.

When little Jacko becomes desperately ill, Laura enlists the help of Sorenson, the oddball boy at school, to find a way to heal him. I don't care much for Mahy's style - her characters talk in exclamation points
Helen Corcoran
Aug 05, 2009 Helen Corcoran rated it it was amazing
This was awesome. I admit that Mahy's unusual stye takes a few pages to get used to, but once I did I was hooked and couldn't put it down. I finished this in a busy crepe place and didn't even notice the hyper children sitting beside me. Sorenson "Sorry" Carlisle may be one of the best ficitonal characters I've read in years. He's a hilarious contradiction and such a boy: charismatic and aloof; utterly bonkers and a reader of romance novels. While I got this from the library, I actually want to ...more
This has to be one of the most influential books of my adolescence. Margaret Mahy is one of those authors who sometimes gets it wrong, but when she gets it right she's an absolute genius. The characters in this book are perfect - Laura, with her mix of insecurity and confidence, Sorry, with his air of mystery and tragic childhood, even Kate and Jacko, who may be secondary characters but who are just so well drawn. Not to mention Carmody Braque, who must be one of the most twisted villains in YA ...more
Aug 07, 2007 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, young-adult
One of my favorite and most-read books from my childhood. I always thought a very dark, semi-gothic version of this could be turned into an interesting screenplay idea. I loved the relationship between the two main characters. The 'weird boy' from school turning into some sort of personal guide for Laura's changeover to save her brother. Although I always got kind of a 'Wizard of Oz' type narration from the book, it did nothing to deviate from the storyline of an original and fascinating tale.
Jul 29, 2016 Emilie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: witchcraft
Hiukan hämmentävä kirja. Jotenkin todella filosofinen. Kiva, mutta odotin suurempaa. Nuortenkirjaksi melko raskas, mutta kiinnostavan puhutteleva ja kryptinen.
Goddess Of Blah
If I'd read this as a kid I'd most probably would have loved it and due to teenage nostalgia rated it 5*. However, as an adult you are aware of the poor writing style.

Most adults would attest that books catered for children can possess sophisticated writing - try Diane Wayne Jones (Fire & Hemlock is a similar-ish book, however, with depth, evocative descriptions, well paced, the correct amount of angst, and an intricate plot and amazing delivery).

The Plot:
"Set in a fairly new suburb of Chr
Aug 27, 2014 Rachel rated it did not like it
From all the excited chat I'd read about this book, I was expecting it to be the seminal YA romance.

What I got ... was cracked-out, leftover-seventies hippie bullshit.

Let's examine this:

The 'magic' in the story involves drinking herbal concotions and getting high. Throw in some meditation and 'inner landscape' focuses and they might as well be wandering around in flares and discovering the word 'dude'.(view spoiler)
Apr 23, 2011 Someoneyouknow rated it did not like it
Read this in 2008 and was horrified at how bad this book was.
First of all, the plot seems dreadful to me : an evil spirit or whatever that creature was drains the main character's brother body of it of life energy, the main character loves her sibling, so she's willing to do whatever it takes to rescue him which brings her to Sorensen Carlisle (who's called Sorry throughout most of the book). Sorry!!! What kind of a name is that?! Either way, turns out the only way to help Laura is through a ch
Ruby Hollyberry
I am nuts about this book, and about Margaret Mahy in general, although not all of her books are equal. Personally I think she has greatly lost out by writing her supernatural YA books a generation too early, before the supernatural consumed the entire YA section!! But these are far better than the typical supernatural YA books. This is beyond a doubt the book I reread the most when I was a teenager, and I still adore rereading it today. Also particularly her books Aliens in the Family, The Tric ...more
Apr 17, 2009 Afira rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been wanting to read this book in ages (because I found an interesting Harry Potter fan fiction that starred the two main characters) and I was very delighted to find it in my local library. This book is just.. wow. The UST between Laura and Sorry is so thick that you can probably cut it with a knife! And how Sorry's past affected him. Wow. This book was better than I thought it would be.

I'm sad that there's no sequel, but I understand it would be unrealistic to push them both into another
Victoria Gaile
May 11, 2013 Victoria Gaile rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Victoria by: Steph Su
Shelves: fantasy, ya
This was a delightful read. The plain language of the book's description doesn't do justice to the evocative language describing even the humdrum details of Laura's ordinary life in the outskirts of a city in New Zealand, even before magic starts to creep in round the edges.

The style is reminiscent of Madeline L'Engle, maybe Lois Lowry or Edith Nesbitt. It has a quality that I associate with Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, except toned down and blended in enough with more ordinary prose that it en
Michele Velthuizen
Nov 04, 2010 Michele Velthuizen rated it it was amazing
Interest level: 8th +
Reading level: medium
Genre: fantasy, witches, brothers and sisters, friendship, New Zealand

Laura knew she was different. She could feel it when something bad was going to happen just by looking in the mirror. But on one particular day, she had a particularly bad premonition that something terrible was going to happen, and happen it did - not to her, as she expected - but to her sweet baby brother Jacko.

As Laura picked up Jacko after school from his babysitter, they decided
Aug 10, 2011 Jonathan rated it really liked it
Imaginary pink crocodiles and piles of leaves bring great satisfaction.

Re-read 2011-Aug-01. This is almost a classic of the teen-issues genre, stuffed to the gills as it is with 'all-this-stuff-for-the-kids'. The divorced mum, the teenage girl with budding issues, moody boyfriends, resentments of mum's boyfriend, deserting Dad, deserting Dad's pregnant wife, sex etc etc. Enough to make you quite sick, but happily it rises above that inauspicious pond-scum genre into a magically witchy drama. The
Laura Chant's younger brother Jacko is possessed by an evil creature who wants to drain his lifeforce; she knows in advance through a vision, but can do nothing to stop it. The only way she can fight it is to ally with Sorry Carlisle, who's a witch and whose witchy family can help Laura change over into a witch herself. The book is imbued with the attraction and tension between Laura and Sorry and with a gorgeously creepy atmosphere -- Margaret Mahy is really a master of atmosphere, and this boo ...more
Apr 17, 2014 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was fantastic. The writing was really well done. The main character is a girl going through some coming of age things, and yet I was never annoyed by incessant teenage quibble. There was a part near the beginning that brought up fears in me so real that I had to put the book down for a few days. The story itself isn't really a horror story, but it's written so well that the moments of fear are very striking. I also found it refreshing to have a realistic ending to a love story. Highly recom ...more
Cheryl Klein
Feb 03, 2010 Cheryl Klein rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Diana Wynne Jones
Recommended to Cheryl by: Betsy Bird
One of the strangest and most enjoyable books I've read in a long time. It was my first Mahy, so I have no idea if this is typical of her style (I suspect it is), but it combines a matter-of-fact magic reminiscent of Diana Wynne Jones with an admirable frankness about sex, and strong, unique characters. I can't say I fell in love with Sorry, in the way I fell in love with, say, Tom in FIRE AND HEMLOCK, but I always was interested in what he and Laura were going to do, and I admire the commonsens ...more
Forever Young Adult
Graded By: Erin
Cover Story: WHAT.
BFF Charm: A Self-seeking Yay And An All The Way Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: A Comfortable Shade Of Purple
Bonus Factors: Jacko, New Zealand
Relationship Status: The Blind Date That Took Me By Surprise

Read the full book report here.
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Margaret Mahy was a well-known New Zealand author of children's and young adult books. While the plots of many of her books have strong supernatural elements, her writing concentrates on the themes of human relationships and growing up.

Her books The Haunting and The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance both received the Carnegie Medal of the British Library Association. There have 100 children's boo
More about Margaret Mahy...

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“It changes you for ever, but you are changing for ever anyway.” 27 likes
“There are always two people involved in cruelty, aren't there? One to be vicious and someone to suffer! And what's the use of getting rid of - of wickedness, say - in the outside world if you let it creep back into things from inside you?” 14 likes
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