Exchanging Lives, by Kathy Buchanan

This morning when I walked into school for the last time in three whole months, I knew my life would never be the same again.

Just one more day. One more day and I won’t have those three freakazoids annoying me for a whole term.

Annie and Charlie used to be best friends, as their mothers still are. But somewhere in the last twelve months things have changed. Charlie is not sure what happened, but Annie has decided she is ‘school royalty in training’, one of the popular girls. She no longer has any time for the daggy Charlie. Annie and Charlie have been selected to spend three months in USA and both girls are thrilled. Annie is going to New York and plans to enjoy all the fashion and fashionable places. Charlie, a pacifist and animal lover is equally thrilled about her host family who have a farm in Ohio. Their parents have a twist in mind however and reveal it as the two girls are about to board their planes. If they were estranged before, the twist their parents deliver firms their mutual antipathy. Their three months are going to be even more than they bargained for.

Exchanging Lives is about two fourteen year old girls in year eight. Primary school is a memory and the first year of secondary school is behind them. They are trying on personas as well as clothes. Their world tends to be very black and white. Kathy Buchanan gives us insights from each girl with alternating chapters. Different fonts keep the girls’ first person voices separate. Initially, Annie is painted as a bad girl and Charlie, the good girl, although both are determined to dislike their experience. The first person narratives are interspersed with emails to each other, because although they were determined not to like each other or their destination, only the other can really understand their situation. Both girls learn a lot about themselves and each other in the three months away. They also learn to look beyond the surface impressions they have of their host families and school mates. Recommended for upper-primary to early-secondary readers.

Exchanging Lives

Exchanging Lives, Kathy Buchanan
Scholastic 2009

ISBN: 9781741693898

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review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author www.clairesaxby.com