Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sophomore Switch ~ by Abby McDonald, 2009

In Sophomore Switch, party girl Tasha gets to spend a semester abroad at staid Oxford University in Britain, while studious Emily leaves Oxford for Tasha's UC Santa Barbara in California.  Here are photos of the two schools, neither of which I've ever seen.  Do you think you could guess which is which?

I don't always look up photos of a book's setting, but Marg at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader hosted a mini-challenge during the 24-hour Readathon last Saturday "to write a post sharing some of the sites from your books, or some facts about the place where your books are set."  Thanks, Marg!  This actually made reading the book more fun.  By the way, I set that view of Oxford as my desktop background this week, and it's been fun seeing it every time I boot up my laptop.  Maybe now I should use the photo of UC Santa Barbara for five days, just to be fair.  (Helen, is this a good photo of your school?  It was Helen's review that made me want to read this book.)

I'm more like studious Emily, though not nearly as organized.  I can't imagine ever being caught on a hidden camera in a hot tub with a hot guy, as Tasha was.  Otherwise, I could see myself working hard to fit into a suddenly very different lifestyle, if I were in the shoes of either girl.  On the other hand, I'm teaching writing in a college this semester, and most of my students are like those the author portrays in the California setting.  I teach a lot of non-achieving students who don't need encouragement to skip classes and homework, so I can't condone the part of the book where Emily is learning "to blend into the California crowds" (to quote from page 168).  Here's part of Emily's list that made me cringe:
  • Lectures skipped: 5
  • Grades I've dropped as a result of missing said lectures:  0
  • ...
  • New average time I arrive for events:  5 minutes late
  • Amount of guilt I feel at turning up late:  Minimal
When people saunter into class five minutes late, they interrupt the lesson.  Everyone's attention goes to them, and I usually have to repeat myself to get them back on track.  Several times, since often more than one arrives late.  I'm still working on this problem.

For another Readathon mini-challenge, I was supposed to "grab a nonfiction book."  I responded by saying, "I can do this.  I can totally do this!"  Realizing how unlike me that sounds -- er, how TOTALLY unlike me that sounds -- I added, "Do I sound like the teens in the book I've been reading?"  The answer is yes!  Here's just one example from the book of how a college girl is thinking:
"Em waits for the cross light to turn green, oblivious to the group of college boys who are totally checking her out" (p. 281).
The book isn't as shallow as I've made it sound.  Each girl learned a few things about herself (that isn't a spoiler).  This conversation (p. 235) gives an idea of how it feels to find yourself in a strange situation for a semester:
She sniffs.  "You're the only one who understands what I'm going through, trying to be somebody else."

"Trying to be a different part of yourself," I correct, but she doesn't seem to hear me.
Overall, I enjoyed the book in spite of comparing some of the book's students to mine.  Rated:  8 of 10, a very good book.

1 comment:

Helen's Book Blog said...

Yes, that is a good photo of UCSB. It's a beautiful setting right on the beach with an inner lagoon (seen in your photo). UCSB has some amazing departments, but definitely has the party reputation