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Literature / The Changeover

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The Changeover is a novel by Margaret Mahy.

One morning, Laura Chant wakes with the knowledge that something terrible is about to happen. Laura has felt this way before, for she has the ability to see and sense things that other people cannot. But this time the worst happens: Laura's little brother Jacko becomes the victim of a creature that wants to destroy him. The only way Laura can save Jacko is to join forces with her mysterious classmate Sorenson 'Sorry' Carlisle, who is able to help her "change over" and use her supernatural powers to their fullest. Together, they must hope they have enough power to confront the dark forces that loom over them, while Jacko grows ever sicker.

This book provides examples of:

  • The Alleged Car: It has to be pushed down a hill and then shock-started in order to get it going.
  • Anti-Hero: Sorry. He's essentially a good guy, and he helps Laura a lot, but there are times when he comes off as extremely sinister.
  • Body Horror: During the titular changeover, the bones in Laura's skull shift perceptibly. Carmody Braque ages rapidly before Laura's eyes, the faces of all his victims are visible in his skin, and finally he withers away into a pile of dead leaves wrapped inside his clothing.
  • Break the Haughty: Laura makes sure to torment Braque and force him to beg for his life before disposing of him.
  • Byronic Hero: Sorry seems all set to become one of these when he reaches adulthood.
  • Cassandra Truth: Laura attempts to inform her muggle mother as to what Jacko's condition truly is, to no avail. Subverted soon after with Sorry, who doesn't believe her at first but then drops by and confirms Jacko's condition himself.
  • Coming of Age Story: The story is this for Laura, rendered perhaps more literally than most by way of the changeover ritual.
  • Cruel Mercy: See Break The Haughty above.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sorry has his moments.
  • Don't Look Back: Laura does during the changeover ritual and nearly ruins it, having to employ some quick thinking to re-immerse herself in the ritual.
  • Dramatic Stutter: Sorry came away from his previous abusive home with a terrible stutter. After a while it faded away, resurfacing only in moments of great stress.
  • Eats Babies: Carmody Braque
  • Faux Affably Evil: Braque is all smiles and complements even when he's draining the life from his victims.
  • Foster Kid: Sorry's mother, Miryam Carlisle, was not prepared to be raising a boy, and so had him adopted. Unfortunately, Sorry's magical heritage alienated his foster parents, eventually leading to abuse.
  • Hollywood Exorcism: Laura removed Carmody Braque in a way that could be comparable to an exorcism.
  • I Know You Know I Know: A nonverbal example, as Laura had always been aware of Sorry's status as magical, with Sorry knowing that she knew.
  • Life Drinker: Carmody Braque is one. The main character defeats him by turning his own nature against him.
  • Low Fantasy: Very much so. There are very few overtly magical things in the story, it takes place in an ordinary (if unsavory) neighborhood in New Zealand, and the weapon finally used to take out Carmody Braque is an ordinary stamp that Laura infuses with her will and uses to place her "mark" on him.
  • Master of Illusion: Master might be a strong word, but near the end when Jacko has recovered Laura and Sorry build a tiny illusory farm in the living room for Jacko.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: Of the Harry Potter variety for poor Sorry.
  • Nature Lover: Seems to be a staple for witches. Growing up, Sorry's connection with nature was one of the things that set him apart.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Carmody Braque again, though in the book he is referred to as a "lemure" (no, not the fuzzy primate.)
  • Paranormal Romance: Says it right on the cover.
  • Parental Abandonment: Laura's mother is divorced, and it is stated that they have rather more than the usual difficulties in getting her father to pay child support.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Laura's mother begins dating a Canadian early on, leaving Laura feeling jealous.
  • Quirky Curls: Laura's hair is described as "woolly" within the narration, and her estranged father's nickname for her is "Baa-lamb."
  • Raised by Grandparents: Actually, raised by grandmother and mother, in Sorry's case.
  • Ritual Magic: One type of magic used within the story.
  • Seers: Laura Chant has a very mild case of this; more like a premonition when things can be expected to go wrong.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Sorry. Taking photos of Laura without her knowledge, and pinning them to a naked pinup model poster.
  • Struggling Single Mother: Laura's father is nearly completely out of the picture and has to be pressured to pay child support.
  • Supernatural Sensitivity: Laura starts out the story like this. She's not a full witch, but she's experienced premonitions before, as well as a heightened sensitivity to the supernatural
  • Tarot Motifs: Cup and Coin, Sword and Wand feature prominantly in the changeover ritual and the oaths used by the witch family.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Sorenson 'Sorry' Carlisle, something of a subversion in that his troubled side doesn't show when he's in public, rather he holds up a facade of a polite, well-behaved young man. Was abused as a child, and suffers from an inability to emotionally express himself, or connect with others, as well as somewhat sinister behavior towards the main character near the beginning of the story. Also, he drives a Vespa instead of a motorcycle
  • Vision Quest: Laura Chant undergoes this in order to facilitate her transformation into a witch.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Braque makes a veritable art of this, favoring people who enjoy and relish life with a particular fondness for children for this reason. Aside from horribly draining the life of Laura's three-year-old brother, Braque happily reminisces on the other children he's taken, figuring ten years old is almost too old for him and even gloating of the babies he's sucked out of the life of upon their mothers' breasts.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: Thinking that Laura has come to beg for her brother's life, Braque spends some time gloating about all the happy people he's killed, including breast-feeding babies, being sure to mention how hospitals were unable to do anything as he drained them dry.