Sophomore Switch

Book review by
Stephanie Dunnewind, Common Sense Media
Sophomore Switch Book Poster Image
Chick lit with a dose of feminism.

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Tasha says her usual paper-writing tactic is to "crib" from Wikipedia and Google. Tasha diets to stay a size 4. Emily notes that California girls with tans and highlighted blond hair look like "some kind of perfect doll." Emily comforts herself with ice cream; Tasha, with chocolate cookies. On the positive side, Tasha is determined not to give up on her classwork. She learns to respect herself.

Violence
Sex

Tasha is filmed semi-nude while making out with a celebrity in a hot tub; however, "I didn't go all the way with him." Judging by the pictures of Tasha on her wall, Emily figures she is an "amateur lingerie model and table dancer." Sebastian breaks up with Emily because she won't sleep with him. Emily's roommate cheats on her boyfriend and scams on another girl's boyfriend. Tasha takes a freshman to the women's clinic for a morning-after pill when she confides that the condom broke during sex with her older boyfriend. Emily goes to Sam's room to make out; the next morning, she discovers that he added her to a list of "Psi Delt Doables" with a ranking and a picture of her asleep. A self-described "make-out slut" tells Emily that all college guys want is to "get laid." Emily kisses a boy she just met. Natasha bounces from guy to guy and hasn't gone a week "without hooking up since I was 15 and started filling out my tank tops." Natasha's "friends" are mean to her after they find out about Tubgate; one girl says, "Your too busy f--king any boy who shoves a drink in your direction to even think about somebody else." A boy she likes calls her a "fame-hungry whore" who is happy to "f-k anyone else who comes around." Upset, Natasha drinks too much at a club, dirty dances with a young man, then lets him "paw" at her chest. Emily says it's "not like we're going to pick up a guy and take him back for a threesome." Emily's ex-boyfriend slept with three different girls every week.

Language

Some cursing, including "dumb ass," "hell," "f--k," "p---y," "frak," "s--t," "bitch."

Consumerism

Lots of name brand mentions, including media, music, TV shows, Web sites, clothing designers, food.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Tasha is drunk when she gets half-naked with a guy in a hot tub; "naive and wasted, what a great combination." Tasha admits she chose "keg parties over studying." Emily drinks beer and Cuervo shots at a party. Boys play "beer pong" at a party. At another party, a group smokes shisha from a hookah pipe. Emily and Natasha get into a bar by flashing fake IDs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know this novel is about college students and features a fair amount of drinking and casual sex, as well as some profanity. However, on a scale with the Gossip Girl series, for example, it ranks lower because neither of the main characters have sex and they both learn to respect themselves.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written bywriterwannabee0331 June 24, 2012

AMAZING, but may be too mature.

I love this book so much and even read it in one day! There are some mature topics but, if you think you can handle it, go for it! You will not be disappointed!... Continue reading

What's the story?

Two college students -- British Emily and American Tasha -- trade classes and rooms in an exchange program. Tasha is fleeing "Tubgate," a scandal that landed her half-naked on YouTube, while Emily hopes the California sun will help her forget a painful breakup. After a disastrous start for both, they exchange tips for fitting in to their different cultures. But just as Tasha joins a women's health protest and Emily loosens up a bit, reality crashes back in.

Is it any good?

Readers who pick up this book for its California vibe -- and Tasha's titillating misstep -- will get caught up before they realize McDonald did a bait-and-switch on them: This isn't total fluff. While it's no feminist manifesto, Tasha's empowerment seems authentic as she takes control of her own sexuality.

Teens will enjoy the culture clash as Tasha tries to wear Uggs and mini-skirts at Oxford and straight-A Emily learns to surf and inline skate at the beach. It may also get them thinking about respect and desire, and about letting "dumb preconceptions rule" one's life.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Tasha's transformation from Tasha to Natasha. Why did she feel like she was treated with more respect when she dressed in longer skirts? Does she find a balance between her own desire and being judged a "slut"? Is Natasha a feminist? Do readers agree with the author's take on what feminists believe?

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