Saturday, February 25, 2023

The House Swap

Clark, Yvette. The House Swap
28 February 2023 by HarperCollins US
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Allegra (who prefers to be called Allie), lives in a small village in England in a quaint cottage with her parents, brother Max, sister Willow, Newfoundland Bear, and some chickens. Sage lives in California with her busy parents, and is afraid that they might be getting divorced, especially when her father has to work in New York instead of going on vacation with Sage and her mother. Allie and Sage's parents have arranged a house swap and are heading off to enjoy a new environment. Unfortunately, just before Allie's family is supposed to leave, Bear starts throwing up and must be rushed to the vet. Allie and her mother stay behind, which surprises Sage and HER mother, but they all make the best of it. Allie is suprised that Sage is dressed nicely before breakfast, since there's no one to impress in the boring countryside, but the girls manage to find some interesting things. Sage had wanted to look into some family history. She finds that her great-grandmother's house nearby has just been sold, and gets a suitcase with some books and pictures in it that belonged to a great aunt who worked during the war for Bletchley Circle! Allie harbors a strong desire to be a spy, so finds this very interesting, and also comes up with a plan to try to get Sage's parents back together, Parent Trap style. Sage steals her mother's phone, calls her dad with an emergency, and even has Allie pretend to be an adult neighbor. This causes him to leave work and fly to England. Allie has to head off to California, but even though she finds England boring, she's not thrilled with having to learn to surf along with her brother and sister. 
Strengths: Stepping into someone else's shoes is something that middle grade readers love to imagine, and both the English village and the Californian mansion will be exotic to a lot of readers. The information about the World War II Bletchley Circle is always fascinating; I think I need a #MGLit novel about that, right now! Divorce is a huge change in a tweens life, so Sage and Allie's actions are completely realistic, as is the parents' wish to keep this from Sage as long as possible. The differences in cultures is pointed out subtly, although not everyone in the US wears shiny lip gloss and fancy pastel clothing! I'm not normally a fan of epilogues, but it was interesting to see the girls a year later. This would make a great beach read!
Weaknesses: As an adult, I didn't find this as amusing as tweens would. I had trouble believing that the father would stop working and fly all the way to England; the monetary factors alone are staggering and made me angry. I wasn't particularly fond of either girl, but then, I'm not twelve.
What I really think: England is my favorite place to visit, and I have seen the movie The Holliday at least twice, so this was a fun book. My readers like Callaghan's Lost in London, Burt's The Twelve Dares of Christa, Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Roy's Cordially Uninvited, Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Ostow's Westminster Abby, Schroeder's Sealed with a Secret, and Sheldon's twin narratives Sophie Pitt-Turnbull Discovers America and I Conquer Britain, as well as this author's Glitter Gets Everywhereso this will be a popular title. 

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