Book Review Wednesday – Switched

Switched by Amanda Hocking

Amazon Book Description:

Amanda Hocking is an indie publishing sensation whose self-published novels have sold millions of copies all over the world, and Switched is the book that started the phenomenon.  Prepare to be enchanted…

When Wendy Everly was six years old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. Eleven years later, Wendy discovers her mother might have been right.  She’s not the person she’s always believed herself to be, and her whole life begins to unravel—all because of Finn Holmes.

Finn is a mysterious guy who always seems to be watching her.  Every encounter leaves her deeply shaken…though it has more to do with her fierce attraction to him than she’d ever admit.  But it isn’t long before he reveals the truth:  Wendy is a changeling who was switched at birth—and he’s come to take her home.   

Now Wendy’s about to journey to a magical world she never knew existed, one that’s both beautiful and frightening.  And where she must leave her old life behind to discover who she’s meant to become…

Like most aspiring writers, I had heard of Amanda Hocking’s amazing success story (sold a million copies of her self-published books then signed a two million dollar contract for a new series with the original hit trilogy also being published traditionally) and I was curious. I mean, every writer is curious about the success stories, so I finally decided to pick the book up.

Plot – Grade C+

The main focus of this book is about Wendy learning the truth of why she doesn’t fit in with the humans. She’s a changeling (the babe switched out for a human baby by Trolls or Faeries in folklore) and it’s time for her to go home. I was pleased that this wasn’t another “guess what, you’re a Werewolf or I’m a Vampire and I’ve bitten you…sorry” story. However, the potential for a unique plot is hampered by poor execution and a very unlikeable lead (I can’t call her a heroine). First, the Trylle (the proper name for Trolls in this story) are described as coldly beautiful with special abilities and, aside from their love of riches, resemble Faeries more than Trolls. Admittedly, this bothers me more because I have spent years poring over folklore and mythology than for any other reason, but still I expect Trolls to look like Trolls, not Faeries. 🙂 Second, the plot of the first book does not stand up well on its own. Too many of the important “Whys,” such as why does this faction want to kidnap Wendy, were waved off as being meant to be told by a specific person and the characters who actually talked to Wendy couldn’t tell her because she doesn’t know already. I hate that tactic, don’t you? Considering the ending of the book, I really wished at least one big “Why” had been answered instead of left dangling in the wind, hoping you’ll pick up the next book in search of the answer.

Content – Grade D

I already mentioned that Wendy is not a relatable or even likeable character. However, I was not impressed by the language present in a book that the publisher recommends for “Age Range: 12 – 18 years; Grade Level: 7 and up.” The F-word is used frequently, “bats-” appears on the first page, “p- and p- off” is more frequent than the F-word, the female B- word also used frequently, “damn,” “hell” and “crap” are the mild words and also used far too frequently. I would never give this book to a seventh grader to read based on the language alone. There is violence, including a knife attack on a six-year-old, which readers might find disturbing.

Romance, or at least, sensuality is also present in this book. Wendy is immediately infatuated with Finn and she keeps describing herself as trying to do things in a “sensual manner” such as when she’s rubbing lotion on her legs while Finn bursts in to pick out her outfit but that fails because he’s not paying any attention to her. Unfortunately, this is another “he’s such a stalker but it’s okay because he’s hot” books. Even though Wendy notes that he’s being a stalker and tells him it’s creepy…she still basically glosses it over because he says he’s doing it to protect her. Not a good role model for impressionable teenage girls who might decide an older guy who’s watching them creepily is their own Finn. Furthermore, Wendy spends most of her time saying Finn or two other male characters are attractive/foxy. And then one of the other two male characters is obviously infatuated with her and tries to kiss her then tries to bargain for a kiss even though it’s ALSO forbidden for her to be involved with him. What I found sad was that she doesn’t refuse the second boy’s advances (which occur after she’s spent most of the book declaring her infatuation/love for Finn and also shared a very passionate kiss with Finn) out of a strength of character and moral fiber but because “I didn’t want to do anything to spoil having Finn back” (Switched, page 283, Paperback Edition). Then after this statement she and Finn have another passionate encounter where they end up kissing in bed and then he tells her to go put pajamas on where upon she protests and “tried to sound flirty, but I knew there was a panicked edge to my voice. As soon as we’d come in here, I thought things were going to go much further than pajamas would allow.” (Switched, page 286, Paperback Edition). They still end up sleeping in each other’s arms but not going any further. But, this is never called out even though her mother walks in and finds them that way because it doesn’t matter at that point.

Wendy is very much a Mary Sue although she is not as bad as the infamous Bella Swan but she has no character growth. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the secret princess stories when they’re well executed. However, Wendy is pretty classic in her Mary Sue symptoms: describes herself as bland but if she puts a little effort into dressing up, every one compliments her on being “most beautiful,” she came into one of her abilities early prompting her Tracker to bring her home to the Trylle early, does incredibly selfish and delinquent things (and has been doing them for a long time) but no one really expects her to change her behavior (it takes most of the book for one person to finally point it out), and she fits in…absolutely nowhere. Individually or presented differently, these wouldn’t be so bad (save for the persistent delinquency) or too Mary-Sueish and more in line with common teenage thinking, especially the “I fit in nowhere and I’m hideous even though people tell me otherwise.” My main problem is that Wendy is seventeen, almost eighteen, but she never ceases to be petulant and childish. She’ll feel bad on occasion about the consequences of her actions, which only seem to fall on her family (specifically the brother she grew up with, such as losing out on an internship and having no job after she is expelled from yet another school) and not truly on her, but she never makes a true effort to change. Where is her growth? Where is her maturity? The only thing that really changes is the setting and people she complains about, which is quite sad.

Technical – Grade C

The good news is that I didn’t see any glaring typos. The bad news is the grammar and description falls quite flat. One character is described as putting her fists on her “fashionable hips” and then there is this example that I’m still shaking my head over: “In the morning, while I slept soundly on the couch in Rhys’s room, I had no idea that a commotion was going on in the house. I would’ve been happy to sleep through it too, but Finn threw open the door in a panic, jolting me awake.” (Switched, page 159, Paperback Edition). This one bothered me so much that I had to go scribble a “correct version” of that paragraph. My inner editor and writer were in pain reading this book. Hocking continually told instead of showed and there is a bad habit of Wendy saying so and so launched into this tale and I said this. So many parts were glossed over, such as the tour of the palace, in a paragraph that could have been used to expand on the world, the secondary character in question, and Wendy herself. I wish Hocking’s editors had made her go back and switch from telling to showing, especially the parts where she starts a conversation and then Wendy jumps to glossing over such as the very important decision made at the end of the book. I wanted that conversation written out in full so I felt for the characters instead of thinking “oh great, she’s being selfish and dragging someone else down with her.” I should not think that about the main character who is meant to be the heroine.

Final Grade – a D or 2 stars

While the plot had potential, it ultimately fizzled out being drowned by poor, elementary-level writing and a lead character who’s morally bankrupt and this is when she’s supposed to be kinder/more sympathetic than most royal Trylle. I have no interest in reading the rest of the trilogy and, judging by the one and two star reviews for those books (something I checked after finishing this book), Wendy’s character arc and moral choices do not improve. This book had potential and if someone had urged Hocking to try harder, stretch her writing skills further, it could have been great. I had to force myself to come back and finish this book for this review. I do not recommend this book for anyone.

Switched is available through Kindle and in paperback.

Next Week – Secrets of Gwenla by Laurie L. Penner

Technically, a Wednesday post since it’s still Wednesday except in the Eastern and Central Time Zones. 😉

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