Favourite Books: The Changeover

I have to admit that I have not read a lot of Margaret Mahy. Despite her being from New Zealand. I’m not sure why. I think I just didn’t find any stories that appealed to me. Apart from this one.

I first found this book when I was 13, and it was the type of book that would appeal to someone that age.

The Changeover is about a teenage girl, Laura, who is a ‘sensitive’. She’s on the border between a witch and a … well, I suppose in J K Rowling’s world, a ‘muggle’. One morning she gets a warning that something bad is going to happen. It isn’t long before the reason for the warning becomes clear. Her little brother becomes very ill, but while doctors don’t know what’s causing it, Laura is sure she knows. Someone, or something, is possessing her brother. Essentially draining his life. Laura seeks the help of an older boy, who happens to be from a long line of witches. He and his family help her change over, or cross the threshold, as it were, to become a witch, so she can fight the thing killing her brother.

This is a teenage supernatural romance, so it’s definitely in the Young Adult category. That doesn’t stop someone my age enjoying it, although with the benefit of maturity, I can see some flaws in it.

There is a lot to unpack from the story. There are psychological issues at work. Not just for Laura, whose parents are divorced and she now has to deal with a new man in her mum’s life. But also Sorensen, the boy she seeks out. In this world, a male witch is considered ‘uncommon’. He has issues of abandonment and has dealt with abuse from a foster father. There is also the issue of ‘being different’, which sets up the abuse on the one hand, and gives the two main characters that connection.

The supernatural element is a major part of the story. In my view, there is nothing wrong with the characters being witches. It’s the idea that someone who was once human could turn their back on humanity and essentially become a demon. The tv series Supernatural did a good job of exploring that idea. The story is a bit of a morality play, because there are similarities between the thing the pair are fighting and Sorensen, who claims to have no heart and could have easily ‘gone to the dark side’ as it were. What keeps him from doing so is Laura herself.

The dialogue isn’t that great at times, but I do admit that a possible reason I see it that way is that it is more suited to a younger reader, rather than someone my age.

The ending left me wanting more. Or at least wanting a sequel to see where Laura and Sorensen ended up. Would they stay together? Would they have to fight another supernatural threat? The possibilities were limitless.

The Changeover was adapted into a movie released about five years ago. Actors included Lucy Lawless and Timothy Spall (of Harry Potter fame), who did a wonderful job of being creepy. The storyline was updated to include real life events. Set in Christchurch, they included the earthquake of 2011. Some things were changed which didn’t work for me. I felt the climax was rushed in some ways. Still, it was a reasonably good adaptation.

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