There are some books you randomly pick up and read without having any idea about who the author is or what the book is about. And in the end, they turn out to be unforgettable.

The Changeling is not the best book I’ve ever read, but it blew me away by the way it was written – and how relatable it was.

Synopsis

Martha is incredibly unpopular. She’s overweight, buck-toothed, and shy. Ivy is an outcast. Her family lives on the outskirts of town amid a field of derelict orchards. But starting in second grade, the girls form a bond that allows them to take control of their own lives. It all begins when Ivy tells Martha that she is no ordinary girl: She claims she’s a changeling, switched with the real Ivy at birth. With the strength of Ivy’s friendship, Martha becomes more confident and sure of herself. And through their bond, Ivy gains the normalcy she needs, away from life with her tumultuous family. When the two girls play, they enter an elaborate fantasy world all their own. But when the real world threatens to split them apart, their friendship becomes more important than ever. 

Review

I started this post by saying this book was relatable. Didn’t we all have a fantasy world – or worlds – of our own, when we were small? Or maybe we still do now. And this book seemed like nothing short of a celebration of of those childhood years of fun and freedom and friendship and imaginations run wild.

At the centre of this book is the friendship between two girls from totally different backgrounds. Quiet and shy Martha Abbot comes from a respectable family with an image to protect and is required to be well behaved at all times. On the other hand, wild and free-spirited Ivy Carson comes from a family of jailbirds and simple doesn’t care of what others think of her. She resents her family for being the way it is, and tries to detatch herself from it by explaining that she’s actually a changeling – a fairy child left in a human home. Yes, despite the title, there’s no actual magic in this book. But in fact it is one of the most magical books I’ve ever read.

For one, Ivy and Martha’s imaginative escapades running over the countryside feel so real, because they believe in the magic they’re conjuring up. They laugh, they cry, they make impossible plans to delay growing up as much as they can. And more than once, they have to say goodbyes – when Ivy has to move, time and again, because of her family’s shenanigans. And there’s always his dig in the stomach when they meet again, sometimes as much as a year later, when they realize how much they’ve grown and how much they’ve grown apart. And it all feels so real.

[Spoiler alert] I was heartbroken in the chapter where teenaged Ivy finally grows sick of all the bullying at school and all the pretending and games and breaks down saying that she’s not a changeling, and never was. It was so bittersweet that she ended the book by saying in a letter that she lied, and that she was a changeling, and maybe Martha was one too.

In the end, both Ivy and Martha grow so much because of their bond, realizing their talents and their dreams.

Favourite quotes

Never walk where there is room to run

Know all questions, not all answers

3 thoughts on “Book review | The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

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