Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald
"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 new novelist Abby McDonald has crafted a funny, fast-paced, poignant look at survival, sisterhood, and the surprising ways we discover our true selves." (from Goodreads)The subject: two girls' experiences swapping universities and exploring different aspects of themselves.
The setting: Oxford, UK and Santa Barbara, US.
Shutter speed: slow through the first half, then picks up slightly in the latter part of the book.
What's in the background? A rather unfair portrayal of people who join feminist groups, unfortunately. The so-called feminists that Tasha comes into contact with are pretty cold and/or vicious in their treatment of her. I think this was done to make a point about hypocrisy and judging others, but the fact that all the members of the feminist group were painted this way left a bad taste in my mouth.
Zoom in on: the Emily-Ryan romance. This is what kept me reading for a good part of the story, honestly. I'm a sucker for the tension that comes with an initially-disdain-but-are-secretly-attracted-to relationship, and I definitely wanted these two to get together.
And it was enjoyable to see Emily and Tasha becoming friends. I wish they'd reached out to each other earlier on, so we could have seen more interactions between them and the progression of their friendship could have been a bit more believable. Still, it was sweet to see them starting to rely on each other for support and empathy, despite their temperaments being quite different.
Anything out of focus? I found the first part of the book pretty boring, actually, and was wondering if I might DNF. Nothing much seemed to be happening and I wasn't connecting as well with Tasha as I was with Emily, which means I was always annoyed when Emily's chapters ended and Tasha's began. Later on towards the end, Tasha's situation becomes more sympathetic and I really started to feel for her.
Ready? Say... "Swap!"
Click! 3 shooting stars. It's fairly predictable and generic, but even though it didn't wow me I was enjoying it by the end. In terms of the New Adult aspect, I thought the voices for both girls were perhaps a bit on the young side (granted, they are 19, so technically they're still teens) but this could help the book appeal to mid-to-older teen readers looking ahead to college.
Note: there is some mature content and language in this book.
This book counts towards my goals for the "New Adult" reading challenge and the Just Contemporary reading challenge.