Sophomore Switch

Sophomore Switch

by Abby McDonald


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"Important questions emerge from this frothy novel: Can't smart girls embrace frivolity, beauty and sexuality without guilt? Can't they have fun and be serious too? McDonald cleverly answers. Her ostensibly simple, bubble-gum debut is actually chock-full of substance." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Take an administrative snafu, a bad breakup, and what shall heretofore be known as "The Hot-Tub Incident," and you’ve got two unprepared sophomores on a semester abroad. For American party girl Tasha, an escape to Oxford may be a chance to ditch her fame as a tabloid temptress, but wading Uggs-deep in feminist theory is not her idea of a break. Meanwhile, the British half of the exchange, studious Emily, nurses an aching heart amid the bikinis and beer pong of U.C. Santa Barbara. Soon desperation has the girls texting each other tips — on fitting in, finding love, and figuring out who they really are. With an anthropologist’s eye for detail and a true ear for teen-speak, exciting novelist Abby McDonald has crafted a funny, fast-paced, poignant look at survival, sisterhood, and the surprising ways we discover our true selves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780763639365
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 03/10/2009
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile: HL780L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

Abby McDonald is a recent graduate of Oxford University. Sophomore Switch is her first novel. A former resident of the U.K., she currently lives in Montreal.

Read an Excerpt


This is so not a good idea.

I'm barely five minutes into my first class of the semester when it hits me just how bad an idea this is. Sure, it's not "getting into the hot tub with Tyler Trask while the cameras are rolling" bad, but then what is? I would have to search the world for the people who decided Crocs were a cute shoe concept before I found an idea as bad as that, but taking my semester abroad placement at Oxford University when I barely scrape a 3.0 GPA? Way up there on the dumb-ass rankings.

". . . By now, you'll all be familiar with the basic texts on the reading list . . ."

I glance down at the dense two-page list they included in my exchange information pack, full of titles like Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, and have to remind myself to breathe. I only arrived in England a couple of days ago, but apparently hell waits for no girl, even if she's suffering killer jet lag.

". . . And we've got a new face with us. Natasha Collins, welcome."

My head jerks up, and I look around to find the group staring at me. Instead of the packed, anonymous lecture halls I'm used to back home, I'm sitting in a dim, wood-paneled room, one of a group of just ten students balanced on battered couches and overstuffed armchairs.

"Would you like to introduce yourself?" Professor Susanne Elliot asks, her salt-and-pepper hair falling around a face that, back home, would have been Botoxed into oblivion.

"Umm, sure," I begin. "I'm Tash - Natasha," I correct myself. I keep forgetting, Tasha is no more: the version of myself I left giggling and drunk in that hot tub. "I'm here from UCSB for the semester."

"UCSB?" Elliot repeats, frowning. Yep - definitely no Botox.

"University of California?" I explain hesitantly. "I go to school in Santa Barbara."

"Oh." Elliot seems surprised. She shuffles her papers, searching for something. "We don't usually exchange with that university."

"It was a kind of last-minute thing." I begin to pick the clear varnish on my thumb nail and ignore the amused looks my classmates are exchanging. I don't know why they have to be so snobby about it. I mean, sure, it's not Stanford, but the UC system is totally second tier!

"Santa Barbara," the professor repeats. "And what were you studying there?" She looks over her thin wire-rimmed glasses at me.

"I'm . . . undeclared." My discomfort grows. Technically that's not quite true, but if I'd told the Global Exchange crew what my classes were, they'd have put me on some kind of international blacklist and branded me unfit for study.

"Well." She pauses. "Welcome to Oxford. I'm sure you'll find Theory of Politics very . . . interesting." She moves on to talk about research-paper schedules, but I catch the slight smirk all the same.

Sinking back in my seat, I sneak a look at my classmates. Dressed in an assortment of preppy sweaters, Oxford shirts, and neat jeans, they look totally at ease: nodding along and exchanging familiar smiles, but then again - they would. They've all spent the past year and a half bonding over dusty library books and term papers while I was five thousand miles away, blowing off classes to hang at the beach and shop. I may have a great tan and awesome bargain-hunting skills, but somehow I don't think those will count for much here.

". . . So I suppose that's all. Any questions?" Professor Elliot looks at us expectantly.

I had plenty. "What the hell am I doing here?" for a start and "Why didn't I just go volunteer in Guatemala like my mom suggested?" I'd been so focused on getting out of California, I hadn't really thought about what would come next.

"I have one." The sporty blond girl beside me raises her hand a little. "Will we be starting with power theory or basic ideological distinctions?"

I blink.

"I thought I'd leave that up to you. Everyone?"

They all pitch in with enthusiastic suggestions while I smooth down my denim skirt (which is officially three inches shorter than anything my classmates probably own) and wish for the twenty-eighth time since my flight landed that I could take it all back. Not the "leaving the States" part, of course. That was a given. I mean, Christmas in L.A. was bad enough (with Mom and the stepdad alternating their silent treatment with plenty of "we're so disappointed in you" lectures), but when I got back to school, the gossip was worse than ever.

So what could I do? I didn't want to just drop out of college. I may have chosen keg parties over studying and put more thought into first-date outfits than any of my papers, but I'm no quitter. And more than that, I couldn't stand the symbolism - if I dropped out, it would look like it really had all been my fault. Ever since Tubgate, I'd been walking around with a smile on my face, pretending I was cool with what they were saying. The whispers. The tabloid lies. Dropping out altogether would be like admitting I felt dirty and ashamed, and there was no freaking way I would give them all that satisfaction.

So even though the semester had already started, I begged the exchange program, calling that stuck-up administrator every day until she finally broke down and told me that they'd had a mix-up with some girl at Oxford who still needed a spot. And although I didn't meet their oh-so-high Ivy League grade requirements, she could let me go if it was a straight swap: my classes for hers, my roommate for her dorm. School hadn't even started back over there, so I wouldn't miss a day. Nearly three whole months in England. Perfect.

But now I'm stuck in a room full of people who were probably high-school valedictorians instead of spirit-squad captains; I'm struggling to even follow the intro talk, let alone the classes themselves, and I have to ask myself . . .

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Sophomore Switch 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although i reeally liked the entire book as a whole i hated how tashas relationship with Will sirt of ruined the ending:(
terriko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. The premise, of two very different girls switching places for a university exchange seemed like something I'd heard before, but I quickly found myself caught up in both Tasha and Emily's tales. I really loved how the author handles academia, activism, fitting in and finding oneself. You might think these themes are overdone in teen lit, but this novel makes them fun, funny, light, and new the same way they are to each new generation. Really loved it, and I'm looking forwards to reading more from Abby McDonald.
YAaddict on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of those stories that I was into from page one. I have always been interested in stories where two people switch lives. But this one was especially enjoyable thanks to McDonald's excellent writing and two great main characters.Each chapter changes from Tasha's point of view to Emily's. I loved both characters. There was something in both of them that I could relate to. Tasha is the party girl. She is more interested in going out and boys then she is her studies. I liked how McDonald wrote the "hot-tub incident". It really showed how out of proportion a story can get in the tabloids. Emily is the one who is all about studies, the right schools and her future career. Everything has to be neat and tidy in her life. I have to admit I carry some of Emily's OCD qualities. Both characters seem to be polar opposites in the beginning. They are both lost in each other's lives and eventually turn to each other for help. It was great to see these two girls come together as friends. It just shows that even someone completely different than you can be a great friend, and bring out parts of you you might be hiding. This story really touches on what it means to be a feminist in today's society. It had me thinking about some of the things I do, or things I believe, and how I act on them. You hear a lot about politics in this book, particularly politics involving women, and it was nice to see how much the author knew about the subject. McDonald used her strength in knowledge in her writing and it shone through for me.While the romance in this story for both girls was sweet, I wished the male characters were a little more developed. But of course, this story's main focus wasn't the romance. I had mixed feelings about the ending. On one hand, I like how it ended realistically. In real life, not everything ends in a neatly wrapped little package, some things are still left unknown. But on the other hand, I would have liked to see a little more closure, especially with Tasha. With that being said, if McDonald were to write a sequel I would be all for it. Sophomore Switch managed to be cute and sweet, but poignant and insightful at the same time. This is a great book for any girl.
lilibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An administrative mistake derails Oxford student Emily¿s application for a semester at Harvard. Desperate to get away from her now ex-boyfriend, she accepts a switch with party girl Tasha to attend a semester at University of California, Santa Barbara, hardly the academic rigor she was looking for. Tasha, in turn, was desperate to get away from what she calls ¿the Hot Tub Incident¿ where pictures of her and a celebrity in a hot tub have become a hit on the internet. She suddenly finds herself deep in feminist studies at Oxford.
Scrabblenut on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Somewhat to my surprise, I quite enjoyed this book. Two young women switch places for a semester, during their second year of university, each for their own reasons. The shallow California girl ends up in serious, staid Oxford University in England, and discovers that she isn't as shallow as people think she is. The studious Oxford girl finds herself taking film study courses in Southern California and enjoying them immensely. She finds she can let go of her life plan a bit and have a little fun in her life, and life doesn't end when she makes some naive mistakes with boys. Both girls are likeable and the switch isn't played for laughs, as you might think. When the girls find themselves unhappy, they email each other for advice, and become unlikely friends as well. The pace moves quickly and the author manages to surprise us all the way through, even if the love interests are somewhat predictable. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like an interesting, fast and enjoyable story about two young women discovering things they never imagined about themselves. Thanks to the Early Reviewers program for sending me this book!
jh_sanders on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a quick easy read, but very entertaining. It may be characterized as some fluffy chick lit, but the author expressed her characters' voices well, and made me care about them.The concept may not be original (for example Swapping Lives by Jane Green) but the execution and characters feel fresh. Tasha (California party girl caught up in a YouTube-age scandal) and Emily (hardcore Oxford student with her life and career plans laid out in front of her) trade places as part of a student exchange. Their duck-out-of-water experiences during the exchange may seem like stereotypes, but the author uses them to explore their feelings. During this cultural exchange, the girls seem to learn more about themselves than they do about their temporary homes. And even though I'm from a different generation, I felt myself cheering them on.This is a great book if you're looking for light-hearted entertainment.
BookWhisperer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To be perfectly honest; in the end I am in love with this story. Sophomore Switch was very light hearted and an extremely easy read. Abby McDonald throws you into a world where one carefree college student is switched for one uptight strict college student. They are exchanged life for life; which means housing for housing, classes for classes, and world for world. Leaving two very different girls to sink or swim in one anothers shoes. Which inevitably they do a little of both. Emily and Natasha awesome characters; that I immediately fell in love with and had to see through.As if that was not enough I was even more eager once Ryan and Will were added to the storyline. I was literally cheering when Emily and Ryan hook up. (Don't do this in public people will believe you are crazy) This was a perfect match from the start that I was anticpating long before it was introduced in the story. Unfortunately, the use of 'Totes' did become a little excessive, but this is understandably the way the younger generation will use slang so it was easily overlooked. In the end, as far as 'Happily Everafters' go I wished Tasha ending had been a little happier, but I understand the authors reasoning and that for the character it probably the best ending. McDonald started easy, and ended strong leaving me as an instant fan.
szferris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago if ABC Family is looking for a good high school MOW to make.....this is it. it is a fast read and a good opportunity to take some of the girls on their current shows and give them a movie to make during the hiatus.....
sparrow52 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Though I felt like I was already familiar with the overall concept for the novel, I thought that McDonald did a very good job of both using aspects of this genre, while subverting expectations. I eventually warmed to both characters, but overall I found Tasha's journey much more interesting and I really liked how McDonald explored different options for her and had her embrace all parts of herself - what she was in the past and well as what she discovered about herself while at Oxford.
Cairsten on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think I might have loved this book in my own college days. McDonald's premise held a lot of potential for hijinks and character development. Unfortunately, neither character ever truly came alive for me -- Natasha, the misbehaving Cali girl, gets her glimpse of enlightenment but never truly stretches herself that we're shown (unless you think "I studied REALLY HARD so I wouldn't look bad" counts as stretching) and each of her efforts are made with the aim of not looking bad (to a boy, to classmates, to her teacher) in mind, which detracts from their value. She never really learns to reach her own potential, just to be the same chameleon she already was, against a different background. Emily's change has more potential to be lasting, but it's correspondingly a smaller change. She finds a different calling, and one gets the impression that even in the different calling she'll be just as driven.The sad thing is, the book presents many opportunities for effecting real change, but neither character follows up on them. Emily ducks the difficult conversation with her father throughout the book, and it closes with that conversation still to come. Natasha leaves England having neither proved herself to her main teacher nor yet decided on what the next school term or year will bring. Worse, the book closes with the focus on Emily's decision, as if cheerfully handwaving away Natasha's future as settled with the airy declaration of having it all. All in all, it's a quick read, and decently enjoyable, provided you're not looking for anything meaningful. It's very much on par with the Enid Blyton school stories of my childhood, in fact, and I'll be the first to accede that those will always have their place.
Capfox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You've probably heard this idea before, or something very much like it, right? We have the uptight British girl, very ordered and her whole life planned, and we have the Southern Cal party girl who's all into clothes and boys, and not so much into studying. They change places, taking over each other's lives, and in the end, learn a lot about themselves and who they really are.Well, that's really want we have here, with the most modern twist: the California girl, Natasha, has to leave because she was secretly taped in a hot tub with a reality TV star, and life becomes too hard to bear when everyone knows her role in the affair. The British girl, Emily, seems to want to get out for break-up related reasons, at least for a while.The plot is very straightforward and what you'd expect from the premise, and the romantic leads on each side are easy enough to see coming, although at least this isn't as formulaic in the end. At least McDonald recognizes this; she's got a bit about how narrative structure exists for a reason.All in all, this probably sounds fairly negative thus far, but actually, the book's a pretty fun and fast read. Each of the viewpoint characters does have a different voice, and McDonald has a good ear for dialogue and for who these characters are. The secondary cast, particularly the Cali romantic lead and the militant feminist on the Oxford side, are pretty well-done, as well. Even if it is formulaic, it's a good production of the formula.If you want a fast read, and you don't mind if your book isn't breaking new ground, you could definitely do worse than this. I enjoyed it, and it isn't even really my sort of thing. Just know what you're getting.
ladynole35 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book from LibraryThing Early Reviewers and I wasn't sure about the book because it is a youth book. I have to say that I enjoyed it. It's about two girls who switch colleges for different reasons and they discover things about themselves that they didn't know. It was a nice quick read.
dasuzuki on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was such a cute book and the perfect change I needed after reading Bad Girls Don¿t Die. At first it sounds like your typical story that two exchange students are sent to places totally unsuitable for them and they end up finding themselves and fitting in better than they thought. What makes this rise above and become such a fun book are Emily and Tasha. Both girls are wonderful characters who the reader will come to love. Tasha, while starting off as the typical bubbly but somewhat superficial Californian, finds that she can show others that she¿s smart without being labeled boring and she is stronger than she thought and can rise above the scandal of the hot tub incident. I especially loved her character because of her actions in the end of the book which was totally unexpected. Emily¿s transformation is a little more predictable but I still loved seeing her relationship with Ryan grow and realize she doesn¿t always have to stick to the path in life everyone expects of her.If you are looking for a quick, fun read this is definitely a book to pick up.
ericajsc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At the back of this book there is a statement by the author that her intention for the book is ¿to explore what feminism can mean to a new generation of teenagers.¿ I think she did a brilliant job in exploring that theme without becoming preachy. Through the two main characters McDonald manages to show a broad view of the spectrum that is female college students, and I liked how each character progressed differently. However, I had a difficult time connecting to either girl. Both girls were fairly flat for most of the first half of the book, and even as they were fleshed out more and more throughout the second half, there was still somewhat of a disconnect with me.Despite the fact that I didn¿t relate well to the characters, it was written in a way that I still wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next. Tasha¿s storyline was slightly reminiscent of Legally Blonde (which Tasha herself makes mention of when her peers look down on her), but it was different enough that I didn¿t predict where the story would go next. I think Emily¿s story was more predictable in certain aspects, but I enjoyed watching her figure out her way in a world totally unlike her own.The girls¿ stories are told in alternating chapters. There are a lot of books told from two perspectives that don¿t work and others that work wonderfully well; this book is right in the middle of that. On one hand I didn¿t like it because at the end of a chapter I¿d want to know what happened next with Tasha but would have to read what Emily was doing first, or vice versa. But on the other hand it was a fast read because I wanted to know what happened next with Tasha so I¿d keep reading and get sucked back into Emily¿s story and not want to go back to Tasha¿s. The fact that the two stories were completely disparate made it jarring to move back and forth between them, but there wouldn¿t really be any other way to tell both stories. In the end I was pleased with both girls¿ experiences. The fact that Tasha left a lot unresolved at Oxford, and that Emily was left at the end with a choice to make that could alter her plans for the future in ways she never imagined is refreshing in that it is realistic. Too often stories end with the girl conquering her demons and getting everything she wants, but in this story both girls are still facing a shaky future, but they¿ve learned enough about themselves to struggle through it wisely.
ThePaxtonian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sophomore Switch was a quick and enjoyable read. Being an ex-pat Brit who has lived in the US for 17 years, I enjoyed the culture-swap aspects of the story. Nothing very deep here, but a fun story that would appeal to college-age or younger women particularly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Apparently speaking in french doesnt work on here. So dissapointed. Ehhh cool book..i guess *grumbles*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought the book, but it wont let me read past the stupid free sample!
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Kid-Justice More than 1 year ago
This book was over all pretty good. I really enjoyed the characters, the book made me laugh, and it even had some scandal that gave it a bit of flare. I absolutely don't regret reading it and had a fun time... but it ended too soon, I think it could have summed it up better. Anyways I almost didn't buy this book because of some warnings of what happened between Will and Natasha and at first when I read it I was mad but then it dawned on me... The author did what I've always craved for an author to do: deny the readers what they desperately want and end it not by fan favor but what the character would actually do in the situation. I admire her for this and am inspired to not just make every ending happy for every character in my books!!! :)
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RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Review by Jen: Author Abby McDonald does a wonderful job creating two characters that you just care about even though they are complete opposites. She drops the girls into situations that make you laugh then cry. And you cheer the girls on as they struggle to adapt to their new situations and deal with people so very different from what they are used to. I enjoyed this book very much. I highly recommend Sophomore Switch to anyone who enjoys a good, well-written story.
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