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The Changeover

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  3,791 ratings  ·  376 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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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  3,791 ratings  ·  376 reviews

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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
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: most-loved
'... 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 a
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
Dylan Horrocks
Oct 03, 2013 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
Feb 10, 2008 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
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 hav
Feb 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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
Cas ❦
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 sc
Hannah Knight
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. ...more
Jul 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still so amazing. Witchy but pragmatic. The prose is out of this world. I hope the movie does the book justice.
D Dyer
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ch
Amrita Goswami
Oct 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.
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
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Helen Corcoran
Jul 22, 2009 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
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
Third time reading and it is just as wonderful as the first time I read it.
Guilherme Semionato
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
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) a ...more
Jun 17, 2010 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
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
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, re-read, ya, 2018, 2015
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 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 03, 2010 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
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 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. ...more
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
One of my all-time favorite books . . . simply perfect!!!
Margaret Mahy is pretty great. I love how she treats her teen protagonists with gravity and dignity. She also trusts them with a lot! Laura Chant makes a lot of grownup decisions in this book, and is pretty thoughtful about family, love and sex, and the importance of life changing decisions.

When an evil spirit decides to slowly suck the life force from her beloved younger brother, Laura decides she's going to do whatever it takes to stop it, even if that means seeking out Soren, a loner at her s
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this felt v Familiar, i think partly because i haven't stopped thinking abt fire & hemlock since i read it last year, partly because it reminded me of a book i read probably more than ten years ago called old magic that i felt v weird & stormy about at the time, partly because it has labyrinth-esque Energies & partly because it felt like my mum's writing, w the same eerie, slippery, in-between feeling as the draft of the novel she let me read, also when i was a teenager ? just a huge, strange co ...more
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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

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