Review of The Switch

The Switch The Switch
by Roland Smith
Intermediate, Middle School    Scholastic    304 pp.
11/22    9780545803502    $17.99

On the morning of his thirteenth birthday, Henry Carter declines his father’s invitation to go with him to the zoo where he works. While Dad is gone, Henry notices something odd: “It was like a lightning strike without the sound or the bolt, or brightening. Like God was snapping a photo using the flash of his celestial camera.” Uncle Edgar suggests that it was an electromagnetic pulse of some sort. Then a plane falls from the sky, the power goes out, cars stop running, and Henry’s new smartphone dies. A drive to the zoo in Uncle Edgar’s old, pre-electronics Cadillac yields escaped gorillas, leopards, giraffes, and a rampaging elephant—but no father. Days and weeks pass, and life becomes a struggle for survival. The world outside grows desperate and chaotic, and Henry’s family must build a wall of abandoned cars to protect their farm. Smith’s gripping novel offers intricate world-building, a companionable protagonist in Henry, abundant action, plentiful dialogue, character-deepening journal entries, and a ghostly voice in Henry’s head. Perhaps it’s a sign of our times that a tale of near-doom seems perfectly believable.

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches eighth grade English at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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