Tuesday, November 01, 2022

The Switch

Smith, Roland C. The Switch
November 1st 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Henry Carter lives on a farm with his extended family near Portland. His father is the head of a zoo in the city, and his sometimes quirky relatives work on the farm. One uncle, Edgar, has put up a wind turbine despite the objections of some of the family. When an electromagnetic pulse causes all of the electronics to stop working, planes fall from the air, cars don't run, and chaos ensues. The wind turbine gives the Carter clan a rare advantage of having power, so they close ranks and try to protect their compound. One plane that went down is near the farm, and since some of the passengers were neighbors, the family has to clean up the wreckage and bury the victims. One of these, Caroline, was a classmate of Henry's, and he hears her voice in his head throughout the book. When Henry's father doesn't return home, he sets off with two uncles to try to find him. Portland is a huge mess, and no one is at the zoo but Henry's birthday present, a dog named Gort, and a zoo keeper, Derek. When the family truck goes missing with the uncles in it, Henry teams up with a Portland girl, Robin, to travel to the Rabbit Hole where they think they have been taken. Run by the leader of an animal rights group that had been protesting at the zoo, the Rabbit Hole has taken in a number of people and are rumored to want to take down the community run by Henry's mother. Using a map and following the smell of cooking beef (the truck the uncles were driving had a quantity of meat in it), Henry and Robin manage to find the group and get accepted in, hoping to get the uncles out. This is a hard prospect, since the leader is very strict and has intense helpers, and also might know more about Henry that is healthy. Will Henry be able to make it back to his family? And will he ever find out the fate of his father?
Strengths: ARGH! This one was so hard for me to read, because this is how the world will end, people! We are all so reliant on power and technology that this is really the most likely scenario for the collapse of civilization. We'd all like to think we would have access to a community like Henry's family's farm, but it's far more likely that I would raise my own food and find a water source only to be killed by gun toting maniacs who want the 48 jars of peanut butter in my basement. Oh, the book? Lots of good details about how Henry's family survives, great adventure going into Portland, a mystery to be solved with Henry's father, and a confrontation with evil, somewhat unbalanced adversaries. Things are looking up a bit at the end of the book, and this seems like a stand alone, but there could be a sequel. Definitely a book that will be popular with reader who like dystopian tales as well as survival and adventure stories. A must purchase for middle school libraries. 
Weaknesses: Henry starts a journal at the beginning of the book, but then stops rather abruptly. The idea that he hears Caroline talking to him was a bit odd. I wish that he had been old enough to drive, but the uncles with whom he travels are used in a very effective way. 
What I really think: Offer this to fans of Philbrick's The Big Dark (which at least ends with the power coming back on), Esplin's 96 Miles, or Eric Walters' fantastic Rule of Thre3 series. I have three copies of the latter that are all very worn, and it's a series that my readers frequently revisit. I was a big fan of O'Brien's Z for Zachariah in middle school, and The Switch reminded me of the 1974 Made for TV movie Where Have All the People Gone with Peter Graves, except in that one the electormagnetic pulse killed a lot more people and left the cars alone if they weren't running at the time. I can still recall a scene where the characters got keys from an employ key rack in a grocery store and tried to get a car to start. And look! It's available in its fuzzy, full length glory on YouTube!
Ms. Yingling


  1. Anonymous1:06 PM EDT

    I don't think the is a book for me, but it does sound suspenseful. Thanks for sharing it. I'm sure there are MG kids who would love this kind of story! Carol Baldwin

  2. I just got this through Scholastic, and I am glad to see your review