Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

In this British fantasy, a third-person narrative divided into thirteen chapters, Margaret Mahy has taken the Arthurian myth of male development and reworked it for a female protagonist. Instead of the passivity expected of female characters in the standard formula for romance, The Changeover shows an innocent girl who confronts evil, defeats it by her own actions, and moves independently toward maturity.

Laura Chant and her brother Jacko live with their divorced mother, who works in a bookstore. One evening, while waiting for their mother to get home from work, the children go to the library and Jacko checks out three books. Jacko is upset that the librarian is too busy to stamp both of his hands, and, when the peppermint-smelling man in a little miniature shop down the street offers to stamp his left one, he eagerly holds it out. The man’s own face is indelibly placed there, and Jacko becomes dangerously ill. Laura is sure that the shopkeeper, Carmody Braque, is an evil lemur, a dead soul from Hell who survives by stealing life from children. Jacko smells like peppermint, and he is racked by convulsions.

Laura’s mother is frantic. Her new admirer, Chris Holly, consoles her while Laura slips away to engage the help of a male witch who attends her school. His name is Sorensen Carlisle, or Sorry, and he has been in foster care most of his life. Abused and afraid of his feelings, he now lives with his newly discovered mother,...

(The entire section is 531 words.)