The Changeover Critical Context - Essay

Margaret Mahy

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

First published in Britain in 1983, The Changeover established a new formula for female initiation stories. Laura is a true heroine who “slays the dragon” by her own brave actions in a modern city—with all of its problems, such as divorce, child abuse, and crime. She does not need a male figure to rescue her, although one does help her. She falls in love but does not have sexual relations with or marry him, as most female characters do in romances. She pulls together the skeins of her ancestry, her cultural heritage, her literary experience, and her psychological self to fashion herself as a loving, nurturing young woman. This feat is accomplished through the feminine characteristics of imagination and intuition. To tell Laura’s story, Margaret Mahy uses allusions to familiar folktales and to children’s fantasies such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz (1900). “The Tyger,” a poem from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794), is the source of the book’s most powerful symbol, the significance of which is pulled from the psychological theories of Carl Jung. In 1984, The Changeover was awarded a Carnegie Medal, the United Kingdom’s annual award for the most outstanding children’s book of the previous year. It was Mahy’s second Carnegie Medal, the first coming in 1982 for The Haunting.