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 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…
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 books, 40 novels, and 20 collections of her stories published. Among her children's books, A Lion in the Meadow and The Seven Chinese Brothers and The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate are considered national classics. Her novels have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Italian, Japanese, Catalan and Afrikaans. In addition, some stories have been translated into Russian, Chinese and Icelandic.
For her contributions to children's literature she was made a member of the Order of New Zealand. The Margaret Mahy Medal Award was established by the New Zealand Children's Book Foundation in 1991 to provide recognition of excellence in children's literature, publishing and literacy in New Zealand. In 2006 she was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award (known as the Little Nobel Prize) in recognition of a "lasting contribution to children's literature".
Margaret Mahy died on 23 July 2012.
On 29 April 2013, New Zealand’s top honour for children’s books was renamed the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year award.
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 landlocked parts of the US, that seemed kind of magical in and of itself. Anyway, I still vividly recall certain scenes, and the wonder of reading those scenes is still there for me as an adult.
Here's a quote from one of those scenes. I'm not sure if it's my favorite, but it's a good representation of the heroine, Laura Chant, and her ally, Sorry (Sorenson Carlisle) as she makes an object of power under the supervision of the witch Winter (Sorry's mother):
"Stamp, your name is to be Laura. I'm sharing my name with you. I'm putting my power into you and you must do my work. Don't listen to anyone but me." She thought for what seemed like a long time, though it was really only a single second, and in that time, oddly enough, the picture of the old, whistling kettle at home came into her mind. "You are to be my command laid on my enemy. You'll make a hole in him through which he'll drip away until he runs dry. As he drips out darkness, we'll smile together, me outside, you inside. We'll " (she found her voice rising higher and growing a little hysterical) " ... we'll crush him between our smiles." She looked up at the reflected witches and said nervously, "Is that enough?"
"Quite enough," Winter said, and behind the fine lace of her age, Laura saw a reflection of Sorry's wariness.
"Terrific!" exclaimed Sorry. "Chant, can I be on your side? I'd hate to be your enemy."
'... once in this enchanting shop, all Laura wanted was to get out again for it was full of the stale, sweet smell, laced with peppermint, that had assailed her in the morning - the smell of something very wrong and unable to conceal its wrongness.'
This is a book I've been meaning to read for years. Margaret Mahy was one of New Zealand's most prominent and beloved authors. She won the Carnegie Medal twice (for this book and also 'The Haunting') and the Hans Christian Andersen award. Impressive accolades, though it's perhaps more important that she wrote numerous books that people love to read! I remember being completely enamored with 'A Lion in the Meadow' in primary school, for example. I read her book 'The Tricksters' when I was about eight, too young to understand what it was about but loving it all the more for that very reason.
When I scrolled through the list of books she has written, I was surprised at how many were familiar to me, either because I'd read them or because I'd seen others reading them, but there were also many that I just never got around to. I plan to read as much by her as I can find, and have begun that with 'The Changeover'.
It's a strange book and I'm unsure how to explain it, because the plot summary does little to convey how unique it is. Perhaps that's why I mentioned the Carnegie Medal, because it has some weight to it. It's about a fourteen year old girl named Laura Chant. Her little brothers youth is being drained from him by a man named Carmody Braque. The hospital is at a loss, and Laura takes herself to Sorensen Carlisle, who she intuitively knows is a witch. It's an odd and wonderful tale, which Margaret Mahy describes in a much more delicate and beautiful way than I've managed here.
The romantic elements between Sorry (Sorensen) and Laura are weird, uncomfortable, occasionally quite sweet, and certainly never followed a predictable path (much like the book they are living in).
It's a short book, 217 pages, but it felt much longer, and I mean that as a positive thing. By the end of the story, I could have sworn I'd been with the characters for much longer. The book moved quickly but wasn't rushed -- perhaps because Laura doesn't spent much time questioning her abilities or those of Sorry and his family. It just is, and so there's no lull, or endless explanations.
This review doesn't really capture the essence of 'The Changeover' as well as I'd like, but Laini Taylor describes it as, 'A gorgeous, strange, unforgettable story...' and that feels a bit like what I was trying to say.
There is a fairly recent movie of this that I will probably watch in the next few days, which I hope does justice to the book! UPDATE: I have watched the movie! It's not quite in the same league as the book and some of the plot changes felt odd, but it had excellent actors, especially an incredibly chilling and unnerving Timothy Spall as Carmody Braque. Worth seeing.
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 details of Laura's life are fascinating and lovely because every description is infused with personality. From the teapot that screams as if it wishes to be put out of its misery to the suburban tract houses that all look as though they are cousins, if not siblings. I read this book aloud to my husband & found myself stopping to re-read many passages just to enjoy the imagery. This book is not bogged down by lengthy descriptive passages or filler. Every word on the page is there to move the story forward or to actively enhance the atmosphere of a scene, and not a single word is wasted. - Everything about the characters feels authentic. From the way Laura feels about her parents' divorce to the way she interacts with her mother and younger brother. There is nothing forced or contrived about a single line of dialogue, and the emotional undercurrent running between each of the characters feels absolutely genuine from start to finish. It is difficult to describe how much I adored that. - Sorry. He is not your standard romantic hero, but he has a quirky, self-assured charm that is all his own. Socially awkward and notably conflicted, Sorenson Carlisle is a male witch who reads romance novels and somehow manages to be both overly confident and surprisingly vulnerable. He is honest but not necessarily safe. And he may have an impressive school transcript, but he still has a lot to learn when it comes to interpersonal relationships. I've enjoyed a lot of 'broken boy' romantic heroes in various books over the years, but Sorry jumps off the page as completely unique. I was thoroughly impressed by the way Margaret Mahy brought him to life with such an original voice, and I loved Sorry for his unfiltered honesty and his oddities. He is not quite sure who he wants to become or how comfortable he is embracing his own humanity, but the closer he gets to Laura & the more he sees the possible consequences of losing touch with your humanity, the more he begins to open himself up to some new opportunities (even if those bring new frustrations along with them). - Laura! As much as I adored Sorry for his flaws, I loved Laura even more for consistently calling him out on them! She is both an "every-girl" character with many of the standard worries and insecurities of a typical fourteen year old, and a strong, confident young woman who boldly sets out to take her fate (and her brother's fate) into her own hands. Laura grows up a lot over the course of the novel, taking several risks and making a number of difficult decisions. Her motivations and choices never feel artificial or unrealistic, and even the paranormal changes are used to such excellent metaphorical effect that they feel totally natural & believable. You'll find yourself relating to her and rooting for her from the very first page to the very last. - There is nothing fluffy about the romance in this book. Laura and Sorry are frustrated & challenged by each other more than they swoon and sigh over each other, and that fits the characters and their situation perfectly. I don't mean to imply that I dislike sigh-worthy, epically romantic love scenes in books. In fact, I adore those scenes when they suit a particular story & set of characters. In this case that wouldn't have suited the characters well at all, and I strongly respected the author's choice not to toss in a nonsensical fluff-fest. Even Laura's mother's romantic entanglement has a decidedly practical & realistic nature to it. And despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of fluff, I still found both relationships endearingly romantic and moving. - The dark & remorseless villain, Carmody Braque. (<-- How great is that name?!) Not only is he sly and frightening in the spookiest of ways, but he appears in a very commonplace setting, making him twice as terrifying. His particular style of magical wickedness is definitely the stuff of nightmares as he literally devours Laura's young brother from afar. Creepy with a capital "C"!
What I Wished: - I wish I'd stumbled across this book ages ago! I would have loved this book as a tween/teen & it may have led me to discover the paranormal & urban fantasy sub-genre within YA literature long before I managed to find that section on my own. - I don't think the subtitle: "A Supernatural Romance" is entirely accurate. In my opinion, the romance, while lovely and an enjoyable subplot, is not the main theme of this novel. This book is about a girl transitioning into young adult territory & evolving into a new version of herself. Yes, there is a boy who helps that change along, but he is not the primary reason for the important choices Laura makes. He is a fairly important companion along this part of her journey, but he is not the most compelling motivation propelling her forward. So I think the subtitle is slightly misleading and may give readers expectations for this book that they will not find fulfilled. However, the romantic elements of The Changeover are memorable and hopeful (in a very realistic way), so perhaps readers won't feel misled by the subtitle after all.
I would highly recommend this book to all readers, and I would particularly recommend it to anyone who enjoys paranormal, fantasy, or urban fantasy novels set in a realistic, non-fantastical world. Fans of Richard Peck's Blossom Culp books may like the way Margaret Mahy mixes magic with the common, no-frills world of an intelligent teenage girl. Fans of Meghan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series, may like Margaret Mahy's precise prose that is not at all condescending to its target audience of YA readers. And fans of Frances Hardinge's Fly By Night may enjoy Margaret Mahy's imaginative imagery. I was surprised and pleased by how much I loved this book, and I will be bumping Margaret Mahy's other novels up several notches on my "To-read" list because I enjoyed The Changeover so much.
"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 sexuality; the sly, ambiguous, difficult pull and tug of emerging adolescent desire. The Changeover in this story has many resonances, and the transition to adulthood is a significant one. Mahy - as always - explores it with a touch of gleeful wickedness, without simplistic judgement, and with great unsentimental kindness.
There is plenty of the supernatural in The Changeover, but as Sorry Carlisle says of himself at one point, sometimes "super-natural" means especially natural (rather than outside it). Mahy's characters are strange and unreal, but in ways we recognise.
It's a slim little story, but it packs SUCH a punch. I've noticed before that this is something 20th-century YA authors seemed able to do; LJ Smith's Night World novels, for instance, are barely a couple hundred pages each, yet they live on and on in my memory long after I read them. Same here.
The premise is simple. 14-year-old Laura Chant, who's always had a touch of magic about her, realises that the disease slowly killing her little brother Jack is magical in nature. He's become the prey of Carmody Braque, a psychic vampire draining Jack of his youth to prolong his own lifespan.
For help, she goes to the deliciously-named Sorenson 'Sorry' Carlisle, am 18-year-old prefect at her school who also happens to be a witch. This is one of those places where the fault lines between the 1980s (when this book was written) and the 2020s begins to show. I'm sure a lot of modern readers would be deeply distressed about the age gap between Laura and Sorry, something which the 1980s denizens are completely indifferent to. Laura even wants to have sex with Sorry; he doesn't in the end, but it's discussed. This didn't bother me but I can see how it might bother others.
Sorry and Laura's relationship is frankly incredible. Again, it's such a product of the 1980s and I can't imagine it being written outside of something consciously categorised as verging on 'dark romance' nowadays. His flirting is heavily laced with sexual-harassment type stuff and teasing misogyny, but Laura gives as good as she gets - much better, in fact, than many modern heroines could probably do. They're a great pair, very well-suited to each other, and I only wish this book were longer so we could see more of their sarcastic interactions.
As for the plot, that's fine - as I said, it's a simple case with a simple villain, but it's strong enough to spin out the book for several hundred pages. Mahy's writing too is lucid and ever-so-slightly lyrical.
For me, Margaret Mahy's 1984 Carnegie Medal winning young adult novel The Changeover certainly leaves me totally and majorly conflicted, in so far that The Changeover is a story that is generally well written and even seems sufficiently engaging but also and frustratingly presents and shows a literary genre, themes and contents which are just not to my personal reading tastes. Because yes, I am not really and have never been a fan of paranormal suspense stories, and with The Changeover, Margaret Mahy's plot and textual premise, they both just do not work for me and in fact if I am to be entirely truthful really and horribly freak me out, as I most definitely DO NOT feel even remotely comfortable reading in The Changeover about main protagonist Laura's younger brother being possessed, being inhabited by some horridly vile, evil entity that is draining him of his life energy, so that The Changeover is thus certainly not pleasure reading for me by any stretch of the imagination (and considering that I am generally creeped out by and frustrated with paranormal and "possession" like movies and television series, why would I and why should I then appreciate and enjoy a similarly themed novel).
And albeit the sixty odd pages of The Changeover I have managed to grudgingly plow through certainly show very much talented penmanship from Margaret Many and that I am also pretty sure I would really enjoy The Changeover if I were actually a fan of the paranormal, well and sorry, because themes of the paranormal in literature I do tend to find strange and uncanny at best, no indeed, I have not at all been liking the presented creepiness of Mahy's text, and that the nightmares I have been getting regarding demonic possession and my vitality and life being drained like is happening with the young brother in The Changeover, this has certainly convinced me to stop reading and to consider The Changeover as a did not finish and not at all being a novel for me. For my emotional health is more important to me than reading a novel where the themes and the contents are proving not only not to my liking but also rather majorly traumatic (and that I certainly have no desire to continue with The Changeover and perhaps be dealing with even more horrid and frightening dreams).
But yes, I am still going to be rating The Changeover with three stars since Margaret Mahy's text does stylistically shine and that the only reason I personally am not enjoying The Changeover is simply because I truly do not like reading paranormal young adult fiction, but that for readers into this kind of a genre, The Changeover will likely be majorly readable and absolutely enjoyable.
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. They go inside and meet Carmody Braque and Laura senses something wrong with this person. Carmody Braque looks particularly happy to see Jacko and proceeds to make his mark on Jacko's hand by stamping an image of his face on it. Jacko then becomes increasingly ill and only Laura knows that Jacko is being possessed by Carmody Braque. Laura feels that she has no choice but to go to Sorensen "Sorry" Carlisle, the seemingly harmless seventh-form prefect at her school, for help because she knows that he's really a witch.
I'm so glad I decided to read this even if I had to order the book from abroad because it's totally worth it. I now have another book to add to my list of favorites. Even though it was written before I was born, I could still relate to this book and to Laura, as she undergoes changes that she's still coming to understand. It's not enough that Laura has to worry about adolescence, she also has to deal with the supernatural aspects of her life because of what happened to her brother. I love how Margaret Mahy handles Laura's coming of age story. The prose in this one is just lovely, I haven't read anything like it. The descriptions are very real and believable.
The subtitle of this book is A Supernatural Romance so give me a moment to dwell on Sorry and Laura. Sorry is not your typical male protagonist. Yes, he's self-assured but his confidence really masks his fears. Because of bad experiences in the past, Sorry has chosen to be aloof and to curb his feelings. Laura even tells him that he doesn't have a heart (Didn't Sophie tell Howl something similar? I'm not entirely sure). But oh he is such a great character. He reads romance novels and is confused when his dealings with Laura don't go according to those books. I think Sorry and Laura are good for each other. They both go through changes because of the other person and that says something about their relationship.
If it's not yet obvious, I highly recommend this to other fantasy fans. It's an oldie but goodie. Let me close this review with a tweet from Sarah. I tweeted her to let her know that I was reading The Changeover based on her recommendation. This was her tweet after that:
@sarahreesbrenna If I ever write a romance like Gen/Attolia Howl/Sophie & Sorry/Laura I'll die happy even if my last words=Lots of alligators in this hatbox
I hope you do write something like that, Sarah! I will be delighted to read it.
’somewhere in the flesh of the earth the dreadful earthquake shuddered, the tide walked to and fro on the leash of the moon, rainbows formed, winds swept the sky like giant brooms piling up clouds before them, clouds which writhed into different shapes, melted into rain or darkened, bruised themselves against an unseen antagonist and went on their way, laced with forking rivers of lightning, complete with white electric tributaries. out of this infinite vision an infinity of details could be drawn, but sonny had settled on one, and from the endless series a particular beach was chosen and began to form around laura - a beach of iron-dark sand and shells like frail stars, and a wonderful wide sea that stretched, neither green nor blue, but inked by the approach of night into violet and black, wrinkling with its own salty puzzles, right out to a distant, pure horizon.’
wow. I know.
(this quote does nothing to convey the oddness of the novel, but it’s simply so alluring and vivid, such that I had to quote it.)
this novel is a rather short one, but packed with remarkable charm, and for me, I was freakishly attached to the characters despite not having much interaction with them in the book (due to its length). it’s amazing how margaret mahy melded paranormal, coming-of-age and romantic elements into this one book, making it such a rich, authentic and passionate story. I especially love it that this book is loaded with non-superfluous, but rather, evocative details and imagery that make everything come to life. in addition to the novel’s unique storyline, it’s prose is also imbued with beauty and the characters’ dispositions, rendering the story personal and lyrical.
so what is the story about? ★ an ordinary girl named laura who, one day, had a premonition of that something appalling was about to occur. ★ a creepy and strange shopkeeper from an antique store that marked her brother, jacko, with a supernatural stamp. ★ a visit to sorenson (sorry) carlisle’s house after her mysterious intuition that he was a witch, and everything blossoms from there.
the name ‘sorry’ is weird, but now that I think about it, it adds to the perpetual strangeness of the story and the romance in it. the characters, specifically laura, is rather usual and not really peculiar, but the stark contrast of a typical character in a preternatural environment just enhances the weirdness of the storyline.
frankly speaking, I decided to read this novel solely because the people in the cover looked like lady macbeth and macbeth (and that’s my lit book). I mean, I got one thing right, because in the novel they did refer to the beginning scene of macbeth, but that’s just that.
if you are a fan of fantasy, paranormal, witchcraft and romance, you should really read this, for:
’it changes you for ever, but you are changing for ever anyway’
I'm not sure why no one reads Margaret Mahy because she's brilliant. Okay, fine, I do know why -- she wrote years and years ago, there are no ebook editions of her novels, and you don't see them in bookstores either (used paperbacks you can order online seem to be the only option, really), and with all those new, exciting, and more relevant releases...!
But God, I'm sure that if more people read her books now, they too would wonder why others aren't. For me, they're near perfect because they have it all: gorgeous, lyrical writing that is self-aware enough that it never becomes too purple, sharp, brilliant dialogue, fascinating relationships, chaotic families, the sense of something magical, growing up described more honestly than you'd expect, for something published two decades ago, and so on and so on and so on. The love interests, who are, of course, handsome, smart, charming, and yet almost made fun of for all the cliches that the author -- and the characters themselves -- are perfectly aware of. Consider this book's love interest, Sorry, who photographs birds, reads harlequins, has a poster of a naked woman on his wall, is a school prefect, stammers when things get serious, and considers himself the best thing since sliced bread, or, the other half of the time, the worst. And then tell me, how the hell am I supposed to swoon over today's heros like Kaz Brekker (sorry, first guy that came to my mind) when they're cliches treated seriously, not given that hilarious nuance that actually makes you want them to be real and ask you out on a date or something?
"Isn't your mother home?" he said. "You have got a mother, haven't you? You don't run this place alone." "She's out!" "Good enough! I'll be normal then, not charming," said Sorry. "I've a good line for charming mothers, but I'd rather not. Come on, Chant! Take a risk! Invite me in!"
And then, n pages later, he will stammer and -- I don't know. I guess, to me, Mahy's characters are a perfect balance between fantasy and reality, with the brilliant personalities that make reading her books escapism and enough faults to make you groan in frustration, because they're such boys. It's wonderful.
Anyway, I liked this less than Mahy's Tricksters, which was more magical realism than pure fantasy (and I prefer magical realism) and seemed more nuanced, but I loved this one too. Only, I felt like the first half was a solid beginning and the second half a solid ending, without a middle anywhere. Still, Mahy is something else and I'll continue ordering paperbacks of her books, expecting to fall in love, hoping they never disappoint me.
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. It presents it's heroine in a positive, empowering light. The heroine, Laura Chant, is overwhelmed by the events that unfold, but is unafraid to do what it takes to help her family, find love, and ultimately find her own niche, no matter how unconventional it is. Its honestly more about the transformation as opposed to the romance, and maybe thats why it appealed to me so much. I admit i liked this book so much as a young adult that i pilfered it from the school library, and have it still to this day.
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 if she wants to save her brother, she'll have to do it herself--he and his witchy relatives can only show her the way.
An absolutely fantastic book. Even as she's learning about magic, Laura is also dealing with coming into an adult-looking body, changes in her family structure, and the push-pull she feels with Sorry. (Sorry is a great character in his own right, as is everyone here--they all feel totally fleshed out and realistic, even though the book is short and quite focused.) I think if I'd read this when I was Laura's age it would have been a revelation to me. She struggles with so many of the things I worried and wondered about myself, in a very genuine way.
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 something I had originally thought was romantic would turn out to be creepy instead. It happens, and there is a little of that here. Sorry can be a dick at times, but Laura always shuts him down and often verbalizes why it's a dickish move, and she never feels victimized by it. She knows herself, and her autonomy, and refuses to let him take credit for her own decisions. So, apart from a few moments where I narrow my eyes at Sorry and maybe some lingering unease about their age difference, their relationship remains delightful, and this book is still everything I remember it being.
March 2021: I have always loved this book, but the last time I read it (the review above) I was worried it might be unforgivably problematic in ways I would only recognize now, as an adult. I was very relieved to find this was not the case. That was in 2013. This time around I was worried the characters might be too young for me to love this the same way I did when I was their age or slightly older. Instead I found even more things to love about it.
I discovered there's a kind of double vision built into the book where the story allows you to see the reality beneath the fantasy, and the future beyond the present. Sorry is a mysterious and adult figure, a school prefect and a witch, but he's also a teenage boy with pimples and an adolescent's awkward understanding of sex. We see both these things in him: The romantic hero and the boy.
Laura is the actual hero, young, but at the cusp of coming into her power as a woman and as a witch. She's forced by circumstances to grow up a bit quickly, to take her powers early and enter into a partnership she doesn't fully understand, all in order to save her little brother and protect her family, and because Laura is brave and loving, she makes that choice.
In broad strokes it's a fairy tale, but it's also a coming of age story grounded in a reality where young girls live with the threat of rape, and the arcade at the strip mall is a thrilling but dodgy sort of place. It's domestic in that it concerns the home and family, and it's a romance—a genre Sorry himself spends a lot of time studying. The story is grounded in all of that, but it's also about magic and power, and to those who have that power, it's as commonplace and domestic as fish and chips and misplaced shoes. When the fantasy is punctured, intentionally and repeatedly, you get a glimpse of the reality underneath, but sometimes, beneath that fantasy, the reality is fantasy. One is not more important than the other and both are true.
This double vision—the way the story is both fairy tale and reality—still makes it satisfying to me all these years later, perhaps even more so because now that I'm not so focused on the teenage romance, I can see all the other things it's doing. The way it takes on a different meaning if you look at it slant. Laura's foreign, knowing reflection from the future. Jacko being both her little brother and a borrowing of her future child. Sorry's true face and smile, his grey eyes that are silver from the side. The way, early on, Laura describes him as "like a TV advertisement—matched up with an idea people have in their minds, not with real life." The story, like real life, has more than one meaning, and some of them are only visible—and accessible—to certain people.
I've loved this book since the first time I read it as a teenager, and every time since, and I'm so pleased to find this new reading, like a secret door that had been there all along but I only just now knew enough to recognize it.
On a lighter note, I finally realized the reason why Sorry so often sounds like a hero in a romance novel is because he intentionally patterns his behavior after them. He's trying to be charming, and human, and that's his reference point. So you get sexy banter from him that makes him sound older than he is except he's too young to deploy it responsibly, and it so often fails with Laura because she lives in the real world and can see right through him. Laura also has Māori heritage, which I was happy to rediscover, and, at the end, there's a real emphasis on Laura's youth and Sorry's care not to push past boundaries—hers and his—and how as Laura continues with school and Sorry leaves for his internship they'll be apart to grow up in the ways necessary to allow them to have a strong, equitable relationship.
Es gab einige Aspekte, die mir gefielen - die Familienbeziehungen, die Umwandlung selbst, wue die Magie aufgebaut war. Jedoch gab es auch Dinge, die anstrengend waren: Dass alles eher gezeigt als erzählt wurde, die Beziehung zum Love Interest (vor allem in Anbetracht ihres jeweiligen Alters) und das immer ganz viel "out cried" wurde.
War ein interessantes Leseerlebnis, bei dem jedoch viele Fragen offen blieben.
Quando ho letto per la prima volta questo libro avevo dodici anni, ed era appena uscito nella neonata collana dei Miti Junior. Mi era piaciuto moltissimo, l'avevo letto più e più volte ed era uno dei miei titoli preferiti di questa collana.
Solo adesso, rileggendolo più di venti anni dopo, ho realizzato che si è trattato del mio primo libro urban fantasy young adult. Neozelandese, per di più.
Il passaggio all'adolescenza, la cittadina di provincia anch'essa in mutamento dallo status di campagna a quello di periferia urbanizzata, il soprannaturale che irrompe con fragore nella vita della protagonista (già "diversa" per conto proprio, anche se nessuno lo sa o le crede), la scoperta di quel che c'è oltre il mondo normale.
E quello che abbiamo oltre il mondo comune è poetico e sottile. Esistono le streghe, certo, ma la loro magia non è vistosa e "da gioco di ruolo". Possono influire sul mondo e sulla natura, ma pagandone il fio e solo fino a un certo punto. Possono creare brevemente illusioni, vedere un poco nel futuro e richiamare frammenti di futuro nel presente. I loro poteri non sono pirotecnici né vengono ben sviscerati, tutto rimane avvolto da un alone di mistero e di segretezza, sono più qualità mentali e spirituali che altro.
Buono l'avversario scelto, il lemure, una sorta di spirito incarnato, un vampiro energetico a caccia di fonti di sopravvivenza, che segna il proprio fato quando mette gli occhi sul fratellino di Laura, innescando una catena di eventi e di cambiamenti che porteranno dritti alla fine del libro.
Buona la trama, con la misteriosa malattia di Jacko che scombussola la vita dei suoi famigliari consentendo a Laura la libertà per familiarizzare con i Carlisle senza troppe interferenze da parte della madre, oltre a fornire la motivazione per procedere nella trama.
La tematica del cambiamento è evidente e declinata in molteplici varianti (dopotutto il titolo originale del libro, The Changeover, significa "Il passaggio"): il passaggio dall'infanzia all'adolescenza (Laura ha 14 anni e già prima dei cambiamenti dovuti alla trama stava affrontando i cambiamenti del suo corpo), il cambiamento dovuto alla prima storia d'amore, il cambiamento operato in sé stessa durante la cerimonia per diventare una strega, ma anche il cambiamento avvenuto nella sua famiglia e in come Laura vive i rapporti con i suoi parenti, il cambiamento di Sorry tanto auspicato dalla madre e dalla nonna. E chiaramente sullo sfondo abbiamo anche il cambiamento dal mondo antico (quello di Winter e in parte di sua figlia) a quello moderno, che ha divorato la campagna urbanizzando tutto, sostituendo lo stile di vita di un tempo con quello attuale.
Rileggendolo oggi (e notando en passant che si tratta di un libro dell'84) risalta con forza la differenza con buona parte degli YA di genere di oggi: più raffinato, più delicato, più sottile. Non mi stupisce affatto di averlo adorato da piccolo, ma mi sono stupito di avere ritrovato le stesse emozioni a distanza di decenni.
4.5 stars. This book in a lot of ways is very different from a lot of the urban fantasy I’ve read. It’s more subtle and more grounded in the realities of being a teenage girl, even one who finds herself somewhat responsible for the care of a younger brother. Laura, 14, sometimes has premonitions. And when her brother experiences a mysterious illness, the origin of which even doctors can’t seem to figure out, Laura seems to be the only one who knows that it’s a possession. And in her journey to change her brothers fate Laura must travel a long way toward changing herself, a journey both supernatural and psychological. The language in this book is incredibly lyrical without being so flowery as to be distracting. And I loved how well-drawn the characters were. But if you are hoping for a more traditional urban fantasy experience, one in which the magic is front and center, this is not the place to find it. The magic here is relatively quiet, based largely in belief, and the teenage characters are restricted by the normal limits one would experience as a teenager, the threat of truant officers, the loss of pocket money, the pressure of parental censure. I found that especially refreshing because of it’s relative rarity in my reading experience and because while there are two budding romance is in the book neither of them is so central to the plot or takes central stage for such a long time that this book ends up feeling like a Ya romance.
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, its doorway touching its own toes, carrying a great weight of square, white blocks on its bent back."
And a brief warning: every edition of The Changeover is cursed with a terrible cover. Don't be fooled by it. It is your protection against people borrowing what will come to be one of your favorite reads; my own copy has a worse cover than most, which is the only way I've been able to hang onto it for fifteen years.
Initial thoughts: This is quite a nice read :) I didn't absolutely LOVE it, but it's definitely really good. —————————————— ~I received a copy from Hachette NZ and willingly reviewed it~
Laura Chant isn't normal. She receives warnings, feelings of premonition which only proceeds bad things. Sometimes, she acknowledges them; but sometimes she ignores them, and what happens after is always unchangeable, set in stone. To save her younger brother Jacko's life, she must talk to Sorenson Carlisle, the school prefect she knows is a witch. But this journey won't be easy...
The Changeover is a short book, nevertheless a good one. It's not often that I read books set in New Zealand, with typical 'New Zealand' problems such as a single mum raising a child (or children!) alone, and lack of money. The book has a great storyline of ups and downs, however what prevented me from liking it more is actually just the fact that it has such an ordinary setting.
Sorry (short for Sorenson) is another thing I really like about this book. His nickname is quite ironic I think, considering his personality which is unveiled bit by bit. I love his broken-ness I suppose, just the fact that his past still haunts him and certainly has stopped him into the boy Laura meets. His mother and grandmother have their own mysteries about them too; his whole family is an intrigue.
One peculiar thing that occurs in this book is Laura telling her mother these supernatural feelings. Although she isn't really believed, in most Young Adult books the main characters just go off on an adventure with little regard or mention of their parents. In The Changeover Laura's mum Kate is still quite a big part of the novel even though they aren't always around. Margaret Mahy has created a next atmosphere in which her characters grow and inspire others.
Uno de los mejores libros de literatura juvenil que he leído jamás y cuyos personajes, tanto los dos protagonistas como los secundarios, se han hecho un hueco en mi mundo particular y me han acompañado desde los 14 años. La historia tiene elementos sobrenaturales, románticos, feministas y ecológicos, todo muy positivo, pero de igual manera se presentan la enfermedad, la soledad, los abusos y el miedo. Esta novela no pone a sus protagonistas en problemillas irrisorios de espisodio de serie de media hora, sino que, ¡pardiez!, los pone en peligro de muerte y les presenta verdaderos conflictos para los cuales deben sacrificar algo de sí mismos. Estoy deseando leer más cosas de esta autora tan poco conocida en nuestras tierras y, sin embargo, tan reverenciada en su Nueva Zelanda natal.
This little book is a Certified Mess on multiple levels, and I enjoyed reading it very much. Should you choose to venture beneath the silver birches and poplars of Janua Caeli, dear friends, please know that you will likely say "yikes!" aloud and with increasing volume and conviction as you read.
4 1/2 stars. I had to ruminate on this one a while. Very strange, moody, and sometimes creepy little book. The Tricksters by Mahy is one of my favorites, so I was hoping for another favorite, but this one didn't capture me quite in the same way. Yet the prose was lovely and perfect, and the characters were compellingly strange and unpredictable, and so I'm rounding up to 5 stars.
I discovered there was a relatively recent film adaptation and watched it after finishing the book. Very interesting take on the story with plenty of (mostly unimportant) changes, and it seemed to do quite well with critics. I'm at a bit of a loss as to who to recommend both film and book to, however— both seem rather niche.
3.5 stars, rounded up because I really liked the prose. The plot was fairly nonexistent and I would've liked less vague descriptions of the magic system. I love witches but the fantasy aspects of this book were secondary to the coming-of-age plot. The ending felt sort of unfinished.
And yet, despite all my griping, the lush prose made reading this book worthwhile for me. There was a romance but it was a lot more understated than the tagline would have you believe.
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 searching for stuff to recognise and identify with. But now I mainly noticed that it's beautifully written, with a lyricism about the natural world. There's also something ambiguous and open-ended about the narrative: it ends on a satisfying, joyful note, but with uncertainty about where life will take our characters. I guess I should feel glad that it's a standalone novel. If it were written today, Mahy would probably have been encouraged to turn it into a seven-book series following Laura and Sorry's witchy adventures.
I think when I first read it I was too young to understand what are some quite wise observations about love and sex. The book is also surprisingly raunchier than I remembered, especially since the protagonist is only 14. I remember finding Sorenson Carlisle unsettling – equally because he was older, poised on the threshold of adulthood, and because of his witchy powers – but now I can see he's quite a sexy and alluring character in a more conventional YA romantic hero sense. In the way his 'power' surrounds him like an aura, magnifying the appeal of his physical body, and the playful way he interacts with Laura, he reminds me of Jace, the arch, wisecracking supernatural hero of the Mortal Instruments books.
I'm so ashamed to make this comparison! But in many ways, The Changeover is a much better written and less cringeworthy version of that well-worn trope: the cultivation of latent supernatural powers as as a metaphor for puberty and sexual awakening. It's a more modest story than today's big-stakes novels: rather than trying to prevent evil forces from destroying THE ENTIRE WORLD, our hero and heroine must merely save her little brother from one specific threat. Yet it's quite subtle and knowing about both adult and teenage relationships and about the responsible exercise of power, and its supernatural elements are grounded in the real world rather than in a fantasy shadow society overlying our own.
There's something a little disquietingly Sarah and Goblin King about the erotic charge between Laura and Sorry, which I think I would have recognised even on a subconscious level, since Labyrinth was such an influential film in my childhood. Like Laura, I have a much younger brother whom I wanted to protect, and like Sarah I was wont to retreat into fantasy worlds from the dreariness of everyday life. I don't know whether to feel grateful or disappointed that I never had an older love interest with a whiff of power and danger to him.
The changeover sequence itself was always my favourite part of the book – a surreal and sensual journey into the self. I enjoyed it just as much as ever this time, appreciating the satisfying sense of ritual and risk with which Mahy endows it. Like the best stories about witches (for instance, The Witches of Eastwick) it's a narrative of feminine sexual power. It's no accident that Laura's blood is described as "the juice of a girl", and that the virginal white shift she wears during the ritual ends up splashed with blood "from waist to hem". I was struck by some weird birth metaphors, too: that Sorry feels Laura's cranial bones rearranging themselves like a newborn baby's; and that his kiss reminds her of her little brother as well as "another unknown child somewhere in the future". Heady stuff.
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 changeover that's supposed to turn her into a witch! Just one ritual and poof - she has super powers, that was hard for me to swallow. Using her mojo she vanquishes the villain, who, by the way, is really disgusting (I know that villains aren't supposed to be likeable, but really, why not make him charismatic or something?). Everyone is happy, the curtain falls, all the spectators leave. Speaking about the characters, Laura is your typical good girl, nothing interesting or remarkable about her. That's an archetype that's been done to death, do we really need another rehash? Sorry is mildly amusing, but I found him to be a bit too cynical for my taste. His musings about different things seem to contrast with Laura's shallowness and focus on her big mission aka "save the brother, save the world". Oh, and his stammering was very annoying! Jacko...he's this cliche happy bubbly energetic little boy who falls the victim of the evil "mastermind", but essentially just the writer's pawn to advance the plot. Laura's mother finds a new boyfriend (yay for her) and angsts about her son's sickness, that's pretty much all she does. In conclusion, I don't recommend this book for the aforementioned reasons. I'd rather read a novel that deals with more substantial and interesting topics and has three-dimensional characters.
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 buy my own copy just so I can reread Sorry's lines whenever I want. And don't be fooled by the book's tagline of a supernatural romance--the romance in this is treated wonderfully. Laura and Sorry have no qualms about arguing even while slowly (and grudgingly) admitting their feelings; they're one of the best fictional couples I've read about in ages. Get this secondhand or from the library, or find a new copy online, just please read this. Margaret Mahy (who lives in New Zealand) needs to be far more popular than she is.
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 ending leaves you with a good idea of how things are going to go from there. Laura's only fourteen, and she's a sensible girl. Sorry's three years older, but emotionally stunted, and there's a nice tension between them, sexual, but emotional and metaphysical as well. Sorry is other and Laura's the only one who really sees him for what he is. This is a perfect little book (if a bit excitable at times), and one of my oldest comfort reads.
Quite a special book, rich, round characters, but a bit of a disappointment. I think the first few chapters are absolutely stellar, really divine, the whole first half really. A strong sense of place, lovely descriptions of a very messy family life, delicious mystery all around. Halfway through, there's Laura's changeover and... the thing loses momentum, urgency, beauty, mystery. The showdown between Laura and Carmody Braque lacks any kind of tension albeit the high stakes (her brother's life) and then... I don't know, just when Laura finds footing the books starts carrying itself with much less conviction than before, the mystery of families (both the broken ones and the witch ones) and the land (fractured, divided land and its spirit) abandon the narrative and we are now dealing with Laura's understanding of her powers and how not to use them cruelly, and Sorry's intimacy issues. Not enough, absolutely not enough. I love Mahy's witty, inspired writing but her tendency to add infinite descriptions to every single dialogue was tiresome. Also, her style of magic can be quite alienating, I mean, sometimes, especially during the changeover sequence, I wondered about what I was reading, which means that such world didn't suck me in fully. I can't explain, but I thought it was quite silly that the book spent its last few pages with Laura and Sorry creating a farm for her brother with pink animals and then those two having a conversation in their minds. As if this was the first book in a series and those smallish "magic" things (that started to happen in the last chapter or so) are a preview of what we'll read on the second book. It just fizzles out to give space to a second installment that doesn't exist. It wasn't very satisfying. Still, a great read. 3,5*
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 with it, can't stop the danger which threatens to sap the life from him. What she can do is ask Sorry Carlisle for help.
"The Changeover" is thoroughly described by its title. At fourteen, Laura is barely beginning to approach concepts such as boyfriends and sex. She hasn't yet come to terms with her father's abandonment. She's less than ready to deal with her understanding and friendly mother making something new with someone new. This is a story of growing up, letting go. Inevitabilities. But sometimes things happen which makes it necessary to take shortcuts, to swing a sudden right turn, and meet something different.
There's so much I enjoy about this novel. The very real family relationships, the tangible awkwardness of fourteen. The language - Mahy makes play with words, sports with them, takes them out for games and whirls them home breathless. And most particularly this book has Sorry, who is so very much a teenager, and yet so very broken, and you'll love him most when he stutters, but almost as much when he is at the opposite end of his vulnerabilities, pushing limits because his heart was beaten out of him.
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 towards LJ Smith, Stephen King, Dean R Koontz and, much later on, the books by Sherrilyn Kenyon and her ilk.
The story of Sorensen Carlisle and Laura Chant is one that has stuck with me, I have three copies of the book as my first paperback copy (purchased in 1987) is falling apart after so many reads. Even after all these years it's a book I turn to when I want to smile, wonder how Sorry and Chant are going to battle with Carmody Braque and win and also not end up hating each other. The romance is sweet and awkward as first loves are meant to be, and Sorry is the sort of intense hero that, at 11-16 I wished I could find for myself.
A well-loved (by me at least) book that I read every year at least once because it's one of those books that I can't bear to believe I have grown out of.