Book Review: The Changeover

Book Review: The ChangeoverThe Changeover by Margaret Mahy
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on May 1st 1984
Genres: Supernatural, Young Adult, New Zealand
Pages: 288
Format: Book
Source: Purchased

The face in the mirror. From the moment Laura sees it, she knows it's an omen. That very day, the sinister Carmody Braque touches and brands her little brother, and as Jacko fights for his life, Laura seeks out the one person who might help, even though the path she is about to take will change her forever.

This review was previously published on my now-offline book blog, On The Nightstand. I republish it here with a few minor changes.

Margaret Mahy is one of those authors who seems to never put out a book that I feel anything less than extreme love towards. The Changeover is a wonderful example of Mahy’s work, combining beautiful writing, vivid characters and a compelling story into a package that earned Mahy her second Carnegie Medal win.

Laura, the main character of the novel, is a wonderfully complex and realised character. Throughout the book she seems both wise beyond her fourteen years, yet in the same breath she is still very much the child she is supposed to be. She is shown as strong and compassionate, fiercely devoted to her younger brother and willing to go to whatever length she has to to save him. On the other side she is also clearly sensitive and observant, not just able to see the marks of the supernatural but also the more mundane aspects of the world around her.

It is very easy to see the metaphor in the story – that awkward time of teendom, that changeover from girl to young woman. The discovery of one’s own inner powers not only acts as a stand-in for sexual growth and understanding of its power, but in The Changeover it stands alongside it as well. And the whole tale is told in Mahy’s wonderful writing style, which provides so many beautiful descriptions out of the simplest of moments and words. The magic in the story might not appear for the characters until a little way in, but for the reader the magic in the words appears right from the very first sentence. Despite being first published in 1984, Mahy’s writing provides a dateless feel to everything, allowing it to feel just as magical decades after it was first read by audiences.

While the title of “My Favourite Mahy Book Ever” (along with “One Of My Favourite Books Ever”) still goes to The Tricksters, The Changeover is still a wonderful novel and an excellent example of Mahy’s work. For anyone looking for a powerful tale of change and one girl’s strength and determination, then stop here, as The Changeover is the book for you.

2016 Note: More than 30 years after it was published, The Changeover is finally getting a film adaptation. Set to be released in 2017, the film updates the setting to a post-quake Christchurch and stars Timothy Spaul, Lucy Lawless and Melanie Lynskey.

2017 Edit: Good news! The Changeover has been re-released by Hachette NZ, complete with a brand new cover! Check it out and read the extract! I need to get a hold of it and give it a re-read and a re-review before the movie comes out.


Catherine is a writer, reader, and general internet person from New Zealand. As well as designing book covers, she is one of the editors for Bibliodaze and one half of the vampire-themed podcast The Bloodsucking Feminists.

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Kiwi. Writer. Reader. Graphic designer. Video games enthusiast. Bloodsucking Feminist and co-editor of Bibliodaze . Knows way too much about vampires than is healthy. Doesn't care.

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The Necromancer's Daughter

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