Hah! Finally, a book where I remember where I got the recommendation from, I'd seen sarahtales saying it was one of her favorite romances and, like any other book I saw recommended this summer, I looked it up and found that my library did in fact have a copy. So, it's the last of my library books so we're nearly done with all my reviews! Well, for the moment anyway.
The Changeover by Margret Mahy
Summary: Laura Chant has a single mother and a younger brother, both of whom she loves dearly and looks out for the way that any put-upon 14 year old might. But strange things come in threes here, not only is her brother Jacko having his life sucked away by a demon and her mom is a little too infatuated with her new boyfriend to completely get what's going on, but when Laura goes to ask an upper classmare, Sorry, for magical help he thinks that the reason she's been staring at him for months is because she likes him, not because she's figured out he's magical.
The Good: Even though I've seen it elsewhere it was really cool to see how dedicated Laura was to saving Jacko, no matter the cost*. She's certainly determined and handles Sorry pretty well when he's making romantic advances that she doesn't want to deal with. And, even though she doesn't have a lot of choices for saving her brother she does try everything she can think of and there is something to be said for the fact that she recognized Sorry was a witch, even if she already had minor magical powers. Actually, the fact that she had minor magical powers to start with was rather refreshing, you see so many characters do a zero-to-hero thing that it's nice to see any variation on it.
The Bad: I had very little clue what was going on for most of the book and when I looked up reviews on Amazon to get a better understanding people were just gushing over the romance. I knew it was a romance going in but got a little annoyed that the book itself sounded like it was leading up to some grand magical event (one of equal importance with the romance) and it didn't deliverer. Quite honestly, if the protag is being told over and over that becoming a witch is nothing to be taken lightly and then the only thing that happens is a rather strange acid trip and the bones in her skull move**. Maybe it was the idea that she can never change, never be human again (even though it doesn't seem too different) and she'll live for a long time that was supposed to be bad but even that feels like a weak excuse.
One problem I did have with the book was how unaccepting Laura's mother was of the idea that something (magically) bad happened to Jacko/Laura had premonitions about stuff. Didn't feel that was fair to put in though because I have a feeling that it's my life that's the weird one here, my mom would've accepted any of that pretty easily but again, that's a bit odd (seriously, she thinks there's a dog ghost in our yard or something, or a future-ghost, although admittedly that's on the odd side for my life). But it's true that my mom has always been really hard to shock or surprise no matter what happens and that always leaves me annoyed at fictional parents, if my mom would believe whatever strange yet true thing just happened why can't these parents?
The book also reminded me of a few books while I was reading. One was The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan (and it seems like she was unintentionally influenced by the book as well, I really was wondering since Mae and Laura have a lot of similarities). And that lead me to thinking "geeze, going out on crazy adventures to save a family member but what about just saving a friend?" Thought about that for a minute and then smacked myself for forgetting about Zarah the Windseeker (by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu). I absolutely love the story and it is mainly about a girl facing her fears to save her friend (while set in this awesome African-inspired fantasy, the only other story I've seen like that was by the same author). So I heartily recommend it, regardless if you liked this one and The Demon's Lexicon if you liked The Changeover.
*Although I'm going to admit that I had just read an essay about how American superheroes are motivated by grand ideals but their female counterparts are always some variant on the mama bear idea, I'm going to cut this a bit of slack since it is set/written by a New Zealand author and it's from the 1980s and I don't know when the superheorine variant of this really gained strength.
**Which is slightly disturbing since that means her skull would've had to fracture, move and then re-heal, I could be wrong but I was sure that cranium was one bone by 14. And even then she doesn't seem to have a headache or suffer any ill effects from it, it's just "oh hey, you're magical now, no side effects!".