Review of Switch

by A.S. King
High School    Dutton    240 pp.    g
5/21    978-0-525-55551-3    $17.99

“It is, and has been, June 23, 2020, for nine months now.” Global time has inexplicably paused. The U.S. government has created a new school curriculum called “Solution Time” that instructs students “to solve the world’s time problem…figure it out / be sufficiently distracted.” Sixteen-year-old Truda believes “the universe noticed we’re falling apart and we need to learn how to rest,” but she’s having a hard time crafting a thesis that proves it, because her concentration is shot by confusing dramas at home: her mother’s departure; her brooding older brother’s odd hours; her sadistic, banished sister’s lies. And Truda’s father is building a maze of plywood boxes around a mysterious switch in their house. But the most unsettling development is Truda’s bizarre new ability to stop time within stopped time. She becomes convinced that the switch in her house is the key and works to dismantle the boxes to discover the truth. Through an intentionally oblique text with occasional refrains (“to understand anything is to understand energy”) and ideas coexisting within sentences, sometimes separated by slashes, King (Printz winner for Dig., rev. 3/19) explores the meaning of time and the toxicity of family secrets. This inventive, surreal novel’s dedication, “For the class of 2020,” makes a direct address to real-life teens’ “lost” COVID-19 year.

From the September/October 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jennifer Hubert Swan

Jennifer Hubert Swan is the library department chair and upper school librarian at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY. She is also an adjunct assistant professor at Pratt Institute School of Information, where she teaches youth literature and library programming. She blogs at Reading Rants.

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