Book review

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy (1984)

I'd like to be able to change over, from the ordinary to the extraordinary, like Laura Chant.

I'd like to be able to step from one boring, mundane world into another world where witches invite me over their threshold and tempt me to eat their bread and salt so that I will come back again another time.

And I think I would probably enjoy discovering my supernatural power, so that I could vanquish my mortal enemies with a venomously loaded curse:

"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."

Laura's enemy has laid his mark on her little brother and is sucking the life out of him, slowly and remorselessly. And while her brother lies in his hospital bed dying, Laura goes to the only person she knows who could possibly help - Sorenson Carlisle. For with her special sensitivity Laura has spotted the mysterious Sorenson Carlisle, School Prefect, for what he really is. He really is a witch.

But the evil that has been visited on Laura's brother is ancient and overwhelmingly strong. Not even Sorenson and his mother and grandmother working together can lift the curse. They are going to need Laura's help too, to distract the enemy and then pounce ...

Laura is good at distraction. She can distract her enemy, and she distracts Sorenson all the time too:

Laura did take a deep breath and realised as she did so that Sorry was not watching her face, but the rise and fall of the breath under her old pyjama jacket. He sighed himself, met her eyes, and gave her a smile both deprecating and conciliatory.
"You did invite me in," he pointed out, "even though you knew I was a mixed blessing."

I love this book. The only problem with it is that it is hard to turn the pages quickly enough to keep up with the story. Two kinds of magic here - the supernatural struggle between Laura and her enemy, and the entirely natural attraction between Laura and Sorenson.

Highly recommended!

What can I read next?

I love everything that Margaret Mahy writes. If you enjoy The Changeover you could have a look at this one:

  • The Catalogue of the Universe

You might also like to have a look at this brilliant book by Julie Bertagna:

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