Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Swap Review (Young Adult Novel)

peanut butter, grape jelly, banana slices, whole wheat bread #snackofchampions

What is it? Young adult novel (actually a bit lower in age than that even, appropriate for middle school students) in the "contemporary magical realistic sports fiction" genre at least according to Goodreads.com. It's also a whopping 388 pages which is definitely getting into doorstopper territory for any genre book, let alone a middle school-level book.
Where did it air? Umm, it's a book so...through Kindle? It also should be commonly available at your library, which is where I picked up my copy, because of course I'm a cheap bastard.
Who stars in it? Uhhh, it's a book so...a bunch of made-up characters with no corporeal form whatsoever. But it's written by Megan Schull and edited by a bunch of people over at HarperCollins Children's Books.
Why are we reviewing this? Because Disney Channel's going to air The Swap (it's 101st DCOM, supposedly) tomorrow which is allegedly based on this very book so why not?

DCOM adaptations of young adult or children's books were somewhat of a tradition since the DCOM was a thing, going all the way back to Zenon and even The Cheetah Girls (yes that's a book series, though the DCOMs far outstrip the originals in terms of notoriety and even they've pretty much fallen off the radar aside from Disney nostalgists such as myself). The previous DCOM prior to Adventures in Babysitting, Invisible Sister, is also based on the children's book My Invisible Sister (and yes I've read it, and yes I'm still sticking to my opinion that the movie was pretty bad, k?) So it shouldn't come as a surprise that The Swap continues the tradition, even though I only found out about it about a week ago, ordered it from the library and as soon as it came in that weekend I immediately dived into it specifically for this review ahead of the DCOM release. 

And again, it's 388 pages long.

Fortunately being a middle school-level book it's not that hard to read and I got through it pretty quickly. And, uh, you know, it turns out it's pretty decent. 

As you've probably gotten from the DCOM trailers The Swap is about a boy and a girl who switch places, and despite the tendency for DCOMs to differ radically from the book (we'll get to that in Extra Thoughts) it seems this time it more or less follows the basic plot. The DCOM seems to be implying that the two switch through some sort of phone mishap? ala Zapped (yet another one based on a book series) while in the book it's some sort of weird curse put on them by their school nurse? And I don't know what the DCOM is trying to imply or explicitly state with the relationship between the two characters but I think it's pretty clear that there's a significant age difference between Peyton List and Jacob Bertrand, while in the book there's only a one year difference, both are in middle school (Ellie, the girl being in seventh grade and Jack, the boy being in eight grade) and in fact they're each other's love interest which makes things kind of creepy if the DCOM goes that direction. 

As for the book itself? Again, pretty decent. There's a lot of typical middle school narrative tropes stacked on top of each other, especially in the first half or so, and the whole "bro" nature of Jack's, well, bros is both a little overwhelming and frankly stereotypically stupid (but hey, I can let it slide because again, middle school audience). In these alternating viewpoint stories that involve counterpoint male and female characters, I do find myself finding the female perspective more interesting (I don't know if this is the result of me just finding a different perspective interesting or if young adult writers just tend to be better at writing from the female perspective - you'll find that young adult novels like this are overwhelmingly from the female perspective. Yeah the whole genre is pretty much High School Chick Lit) and I find The Swap to be no exception - except I find Jack's situation in Ellie's body more interesting while I find Ellie's actual perspective from Jack's body more interesting (yeah even I got confused about how I should find which more interesting). Again with the middle school tropes - the whole story is about how Ellie should find more confidence in herself to stand up for herself (whether it be directly learning this through the perspective of Jack's body and family or Jack in Ellie's body teaching the other girls to respect her) and Jack in how he should have more confidence to stand up to his brothers and dad, but I get the overwhelming stance that this is primarily Ellie's story, Jack just happens to live in it. And again, given how interesting I found Ellie's story to be, I don't consider that a problem at all. In fact, in terms of straightforward play of the "girl gains confidence, girl gets empowered, YAY GIRL POWER!" genre, I've actually found Ellie's story to be one of the most deeply satisfying ones I've encountered so far (not that there's a shortage of satisfying stories in that genre either).

Given the ready availability and relative easy reading level of this book I'm not in a hurry to spoil it, but I am interested in seeing how it compares to the DCOM. Expect a review of that as I get to it. 

Episode Grade: Well I gave it a full five stars on its Goodreads page but it would be a rather weak five stars. I've always thought the five-star rating system was rather clunky and stupid because it forces a more restrictive pigeon-hole on reviews without a lengthy written summary to provide qualifiers (something my young adult novel professor didn't appreciate me hijacking the whole class on sharing - and yes, that is a real course and yes I took it) which is why I either like a straight up "it's worth watching/reading or not" and just give us an explanation why or why not or the grade system we've stolen from GirlMeetsWorldReviewed. Speaking of which, on that scale I'd give it a B+.
Episode MVP: Uhhh...again being a novel there's no real creative players involved other than author Megan Schull herself so...Megan Schull by default? You can read the book's afterward to see who she herself picks for MVP for making the book a reality for what it's worth.

Extra Thoughts:

 - fun fact: this blog (yes this one you're reading) was originally going to be a young adult novel review blog at the suggestion of a professor, about a year or so before Christian and Sean even started GMWReviewed (the name "Unknown" was actually specifically invented for it because I have the creative imagination of a brick). I never got to it because frankly I got discouraged by the large number of already high-quality young adult literature review blogs out there and it seemed a bit redundant and, uh, I'm also lazy. Then Christian and Sean did their thing and I decided maybe there'd be an audience for a blog covering the rest of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon so, uh, thanks, the five or so of you who are my audience.

 - on that note there's certainly no reason why we can't review other young adult novels anyway, whether they be ones that were adapted into DCOMs (like say Geek Charming) or more mainstream movies (like The Fault in Our Stars and yes I'm not ashamed to admit I've both read and seen The Fault in Our Stars) or ones that haven't been adapted at all yet (like The Probability of Miracles aka That One Book That Hack John Greene Ripped Off to Make The Fault In Our Stars [not true], although I understand that's being adapted into a movie too).If the five of you reading this or so happen to have any suggestions, I'm open - hell chances are I've probably already read it. 

 - And yeah, there's an equally proud tradition of DCOMs veering significantly from the books. Off the top of my head Geek Charming was one of the ones most faithful, and even there given that Geek Charming is an Upper-High School level book they've had to, well, make some creative changes more suitable for the target audience (not to mention buggered up the ending to make it more Disney Princess-ish). I've never read the Twitches books (yes that's another book series) but I understand that's more or less faithful if a little condensed, though the eponymous Twitches are supposed to be redheads (as you probably know by now, a detail I really appreciate it, but after having been a big fan of Sister, Sister and recording Instant Mom on my DVR, yeah I think Tia Mowry-Hardict is hot as hell so whatever. Also, I'll shut up now). Lemonade Mouth was a pretty faithful adaptation too although the author of that book later released a "movie tie-in edition" with cleaned-up language (apparently a lot of parents got the book for their kids after the DCOM, actually read it, and went all please think of the children! when they actually bothered to read it). There's supposedly a "movie tie-in" edition of The Swap coming out too though I don't know why since it's already aiming at 11-13 year olds.

 - And then you have DCOMs that have no resemeblence to their source material. Remember the Debby Ryan DCOM Radio Rebel? It's based on a book called Shrinking Violet and besides a title change (IMHO "Radio Rebel" kinda sounds a little generic into stupid territory, I wish they'd just keep the title) they did do a bunch to change the basic plot and content (in Radio Rebel, Tara has her podcast of course but in the book she's actually interning at her stepdad's radio station - yeah, kinda like what the DCOM eventually does but in the book she starts out as an intern and then gets a radio gig when they just find themselves short-handed. Also there's no subplot about the principal getting all buttmad and BTFO about Radio Rebel and music - in fact, in the book the principal's actually pretty supportive of the whole thing, it's just that the radio station keeps it a secret as part of a giveaway contest [no points for guessing who in the book wins that one, if you've seen the movie] and to "keep the mystique." Oh, and they tone the sexual aspects of the book way the hell down including the detail that not even Tara's own mother knows who her father is) but the overall plot and message more or less stay the same. Not so with Zapped, Invisible Sister and Frenemies - based on Boys are Dogs, My Invisible Sister and, um, well, Frenemies, respectively.  In both Zapped and Frenemies, they just about keep some of the names and that's it. In Boys are Dogs, there's no magical or fantastic elements whatsoever (other than the main character sometimes wishing she can understand boys, there's no indication why and how Disney Channel thought to introduce the whole "boy control app" thing in the first place) and it's actually pretty much standard "realistic fiction" middle school fare. Being a four-part book series (the last one came out shortly after the DCOM) it's sometimes compared to The Secret Language of Girls series and Saffy's Angel/The Casson Family series (both series which are increasingly becoming accepted into the middle school canon, especially in The Casson Family series' native Britain) and in, like, the whole combined collection of a dozen or so books from these three series except for the third Boys are Dogs book being centered around a talent show there's zero magical stuff going on whatsoever. Also, Jackson, the main love interest in the DCOM, is actually the main character's bully in the book series (although by the fourth book he starts to come around to being a love interest, perhaps influenced by the DCOM - remember, the fourth book came after the DCOM). 

 - And don't get me started on Frenemies, where almost literally it just borrowed the names "Halley" and "Avalon" from the book. The Frenemies book series actually has a lot more resemblance to The Clique (a book series I mentioned in my last young adult novel post) and it's basically a series about the reader slowly watching Halley and Avalon's friendship completely break down until they become enemies, except it's even more poorly written than The Clique and it got to the point where the last book or so was made available as an e-book only (the book equivalent of being Straight-to-DVD, don't let all the people proclaiming e-books are the future most people read e-books now! fool you). And then there's Invisible Sister (don't worry Mike I'm not going to bang on the movie anymore) but again, not a lot of resemblance. In the book the eponymous invisible sister is actually born invisible as a deformity (yeah it's, um, pretty out there - it's also meant for an elementary school-level audience) and it's about how her brother feels so inconvenienced about her deformity until he learns to accept it and at the end of the book on Christmas Day they take advantage of snowfall so that she can appear visible if only in general outline form. It's actually, well...I *guess* it could be an emotional ending if you're, like, 8 and into that kind of thing and, yeah, like, totally, if you happen to be into that. *sniff*

 - As for the actual DCOM, The Swap, it seems to be a no-show on Disney Channel OnDemand or Watch Disney Channel so I guess I'll have to wait for tomorrow like everyone else.

 - And one last thing typing those last two things together: if they were really trying to follow the book I'd more imagine Dog With a Blog's Francesca Capaldi (she's explicitly mentioned as being a redhead in the book) and Stuck in the Middle's Isaak Presley in the roles of Ellie and Jack, respectively (really, if you read the book and follow the character descriptions I swear Megan Schull had Francesca and Isaak in mind specifically when she was imagining these characters), or I guess maybe Jacob's still young enough to pull it off (remember, middle school students). But yeah Peyton List is way too old if they were really sticking with the source material, and given the cell phone angle it makes me think it's going to be another Zapped/Boys are Dogs relationship.

6 comments:

  1. The Swap has to be the most underhyped DCOM ever. There's been ads (intrusive really intrusive ones that make noise, muting the actual program for a few seconds. Ugh) but not as much as usual, and honestly it's easy to forgot this is coming out.

    Which tells it'll be forgettable. Premise is pretty standard but hopefully they'll do something fun with it.

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    Replies
    1. Remember how under-hyped Invisible Sister was a year ago?

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    2. I think that got more hype because Rowan was a bigger star at that tie, and it was a Monstober movie. This is airing in October too but it's not too tied to it and is just not hyped a lot.

      Also, as of this comment, the movie has aired, and it was okay.

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    3. I don't know if Rowan really was a bigger star back then or not. Yes she was the main star of Girl Meets World and she had the Girl Meets World hype (really Boy Meets World nostalgia hype - no not meant as shots fired against Christian and Sean ;) but she was still a relative newcomer while Peyton had already been on Jessie for four years and Bunk'd was already underway, plus a lot of that nostalgia hype started to die down (TBH I think World of Terror 2 really helped to kill a lot of it, given its reception beyond just GMWReviewed). I don't think there's much of a difference in promotion or how the two DCOMs were tied into Monstober either. In terms of ratings, Invisible Sister represented a significant drop compared even to the bomb that was Teen Beach 2 (though that's relative to expectations, mind you) and Monstober '15 was a ratings bust (again relative to expectations) and after the bomb of Adventures in Babysitting (a movie I did really like BTW) I wouldn't be surprised that after the DCOMs that had already been in the pipeline (which would include this plus whatever Descendants sequels and the Throw like Mo movie) they're going to rollback on the whole DCOM thing period. It might end up being another 2013 situation where we have a sure-hit mega-DCOM like Descendants 23 or whatever and that'd be it. I'm going to address more of these in a future post, kind of a follow-up to what we did for our 100th/1-year post.

      And yes, it was ok too. Spoiler review alert, but I think I'd give it a C+ or probably a B-.

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  2. GMW is a bigger hit at the moment than Bunk'd though, and there was a bigger up and comer with Paris to pump up too.

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    Replies
    1. True. Then again given how awful Bunk'd is that's not hard to do 😉

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