If you’ve been following our site since its beginning (HSA is already one year old! Yay!) you’ll have read Lindsey’s review of Alyssa Cooper‘s short story, “The Motel Room.”
Well, Her Story Arc came back for more! Our August Book of the Month selection is Cooper’s new novel, Switch. Switch is the first in a series about the witches of the Ashburnham coven, and Cooper’s 5th published book. We first meet protagonist Maggie as she’s being shuffled around from family member to family member, each one throwing her out after her uncontrolled powers cause trouble. Most of the story is about Maggie’s search for family—through various relatives (unsuccessfully), the coven, and, eventually, by hunting for her long-lost sister. Along the way, she has to learn who she can trust, because not everything is perfect in the coven. Let’s dive right in and take a look at the book through the Scale of Inclusivity.
Not offensive to women = 1 pt*
Definitely not offensive. There was nothing in this story that made me feel women or women’s issues were being devalued or portrayed in uncomfortable ways.
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2 pts
As I said, Switch‘s protagonist is a teenager named Maggie. But the secondary characters are who I want to talk about. One thing I liked about Switch was the great number of secondary female characters. Good and bad, beautiful and not, old and young, vapid and serious, this book has a range of personalities. Most refreshing, these characters did not fall neatly into tropes typical of a YA novel.
Passes the Bechdel test = 3 pts
Easily passed. Most of the characters are women, discussing what other women characters are doing.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 3 pts
Switch is all about witches, which means there’s some very cool magic happening. Cooper seems to know her stuff, particularly with herb lore. I don’t know anything about herbs myself, so I might not be the best judge of that, but I liked reading it!
Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that took place in the “grove,” an enchanted place with a mysterious Red Queen. Though this book lacked a typical learning-the-magical-ropes scene common in YA fantasy, there was plenty of cool magic to go around. I could’ve gone for even more.
Some problems I had were with the pacing. For me, the end of the book could’ve come in the middle. Maggie’s choices at the end were compelling and, without giving away too much, I loved that the book ended on a low note for the character. But the beginning dragged, introducing too many named characters, and I felt the mystery could’ve been tightened to get more done in fewer scenes.
Above and Beyond General Media = 1 pt
This story, while entertaining, did not stretch the limits of YA potential. Still, I’ve awarded one point out of five in this category for Switch‘s approach to YA romance, specifically a lesbian romance between two side characters.
I loved that a romance between two teen girls was able to go on in the background without any pomp and circumstance. I also liked Maggie’s lack of a romantic interest. She interacts with boys and girls her own age but realistically doesn’t have time for a romance during the story’s time frame. YA is often criticized for its focus on the love story, and while I don’t mind a love story (it’s a good opportunity to create character development and growth) Switch didn’t need one for Maggie and Cooper rightly didn’t force it. And the door is open for a romance with a boy or a girl in the next book.
And the verdict is: 10/15 points on the Scale!
You can get Switch here! And be sure to check out Cooper’s website!
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*This is a category that could get very complicated, very quickly, if we tried to list everything that could be offensive to women. Instead, we use this category as a way of showing our own personal reaction to whatever we are reviewing. All contributors to this site are women and can speak from a woman’s perspective. However, no woman can speak for all women so we do our best to explain our choice one way or the other. We encourage all readers to share their opinions in the comments of every post if they want to express agreement or disagreement with our rankings.