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Literature / Switchers

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A trilogy of children's novels written by Kate Thompson. They centre on an Irish girl named Tess, initially 13 years old, and 15 by the end of the series. At the age of 8, she discovered that she has the ability to change into any animal of her choosing, and has been doing so in secret ever since.

In the first novel, Switchers, Tess meets a homeless boy called Kevin, who eventually reveals to her that he has the same gift, which is called 'switching' (thus making them switchers), and eventually the two meet with an elderly former switcher named Lizzie, who sends them on a mission to fight city-sized alien pancake slugs. Yes, really.

The second novel, Midnight's Choice, introduces another switcher named Martin, who is the villain of the story. It has a much darker tone (but this is justified in-story).

The third novel, Wild Blood, reveals the mystery behind why switchers exist at all.

This trilogy provides examples of:

  • Animorphism: Switching. At first.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: The theme of the second book.
  • Good Is Boring: All three of the main switchers express this feeling at some point. Kevin explains to Tess the beauty of being a rat, and Tess eventually comes to realise it herself. The second book has all three switchers make this realisation: Tess notes that being a vampire is, while evil, much more satisfying than being a phoenix. Martin says it outright: he got bored with being cute animals, and moved on to vampires. Finally, at the end of the second book, Kevin tells Tess how boring it was to be a phoenix.
  • Good Is Impotent: Apparently, a phoenix won't even bother to try and save its own life.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Switchers get this a lot: While they can change at will, they cannot so easily remove the effects on their personality. Initially, Tess only experiences 'good' animals like squirrels and rabbits, and her personality is similarly weak; once she tries being a rat, however, she finds a new boldness and power in herself. In the second book, the effects on her personality are even worse when she tries shifting into a phoenix and later on, a vampire.
  • Order Versus Chaos: A possible interpretation of the second book.
  • Shapeshifter Mode Lock: All Switchers eventually suffer this because their switching power only lasts until their 15th birthday. For most, the only problem with this is trying to decide what form, if any, they would like to have for the rest of their lives (they can, if they want to, stay human). For others, the problem is when they don't get a choice because of their circumstances.
    • In the first book, Kevin mentions that a switcher he knew became an eagle on her 15th birthday. A direct example is when Kevin becomes a phoenix so he can resurrect himself after a napalm attack; by the time he could change back, his 15th birthday has come, and he is stuck that way.
  • Starfish Language: The Rat language is so bizarre that it can't even be spoken or properly transcribed: rats 'speak' by telepathically sending visual images into the minds of others, which are metaphors for the message they wish to convey. For example, an image depicting many streets would mean 'a long way away'.
  • Transformation Fiction: The trilogy explores into the possibilities of shapeshifting powers as well as the downsides in using them.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Switching!
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Rats. Initially Tess refuses to be one, but once she discovers the complexity and delightful fearlessness of the rat personality, she realises she's been wrong about them, and seriously considers remaining as one.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Averted totally with the switchers; there's never even a hint that they feel animals are in any way lesser than them, and are perfectly willing to remain one for the rest of their life.