Switched at Birthday, by Natalie Standiford

Switched at Birthday, by Natalie Standiford (Scholastic 2014, Middle Grade).

Through magical happenstance, two girls who share nothing but their birthday are switched into each other's bodies when they turn 13.  Lavender is an schulmpy, clutzy, poorly-groomed outlier, who  makes no effort to practice any sort of middle school social graces, in part as a gesture of defiance against the taunts and torments she receives from the Beautiful Girls.  Scarlet is the leader of those girls, star of the soccer team, polished to a shiny gloss, and seemingly safe from all the vicissitudes of life.   But when the girls start living life in each others bodies, they both grow wiser, and when they switch back, their lives are changed for the better.

Although I did appreciate the fact that neither of the two girls ended up perfect in every way.  They are still themselves, just with more self-awareness, open-ness, and empathy.

Here's what I enjoyed--the difficulties the two girls had convincingly living each other's lives.   Among other difficulties, like finding something to wear in each others closet, poor Lavender has to take to the soccer field, and poor Scarlet has to deal with the mean-ness that's part of Lavender's daily life at school, forced to endure harassments of that she had once had a role in inflicting.

I must say that the mean-ness of this particular middle school made the book hard going--I don't like to read about cruel girls throwing chicken pot pies at those they despise (and surely this is exaggeration?  It doesn't really happen, does it????).   Of course, the mean and beautiful girls had to be hateful to make the plot work, but still...

More interesting. though less graphically brutal, than the plot line of outcast girl bespattered by lunch were the familial problems that Scarlet, though apparently perfect, is dealing with.  She suffers from a manipulative, domineering step-father whose main point in the story is to put Scarlet, her mother, and her step-brother down.   Again, his antagonism is not limed with too subtle a brush, but it's not a subtle book, so I wasn't expecting nuance, and was not bothered.   Scarlet actually enjoys the warm family dynamics of Lavender's family, unpolished as they are...

A good one for girls who enjoy reading about the turmoils of middle grade life (and though I am against gender marketing in general, some books just will appeal more to girls, in as much as they are solidly from the girl point of view).   The fantasy premise (explained just enough to make the reader not whiningly question what happened) makes it fun, and the ending is comforting (spoiler--Lavender and Scarlet are now friends, and there's a nice little bit of romance).

Here's another review at Ms. Yingling Reads


  1. I finished reading your review and could only think of one word: "Interesting."
    Thanks for the honest review. :)

  2. So often when reading fictional bullying, I just wonder if people actually do that.

  3. I've no doubt that horrible bullying exists. However, I'm also firmly of the opinion that it is not even remotely the "normal" state of affairs that's portrayed in seemingly every fictional school in every book, TV show, and movie. As a former student, a former middle school teacher, and a current mother of 6th graders, I consider myself to have a fair experience of various schools, and it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine that fictional schools seem so uniformly horrible! But I guess it's no different from the portrayal of fictional English country houses being invariably occupied by murderers! Without horrible people, you don't have a plot. Still, I hate to think of kids getting the idea that truly evil queen bees are a normal part of life.


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