When a magical black cat, Surla, runs away from her bombastic witch, Idis, she has no idea that she will soon be living as a teenage girl, confronting both the mean girls and the popular—and very cute—guys of Washington High on a daily basis.BeSwitched was a quick, sweet, and fun Middle-Grade read that I quite enjoyed.
While Surla may look like Cathy, her peers notice a dramatic change in her personality when she starts standing up for herself, dressing differently, snagging dates, and picking up strange habits. Meanwhile, the witch Idis is a flaming red-haired fury as she awkwardly tries to fit into society. She must hunt down her familiar in order to be able to continue performing spells. In spite of their circumstances, Surla and Cathy learn more about themselves and gain great self esteem by being each other. Not only this, but the usual drama and young love in high school life is kindled in BeSwitched as Todd, the handsome quarterback, shows sincere interest in Cathy. The "curse" of being BeSwitched winds up being the most purr-fect secret these new best friends could ever have!
The story starts out with a bit of a bang. Instead of the usual long and dreary introductions that we get, the author launches straight into Surla's escape from Idis' home and her BeSwitching with Cathy. I felt a little detached to the story at the start since it moved a tiny bit too fast for my linking, but it was otherwise a very interesting beginning and would keep most readers hooked.
There were lots of things I enjoyed about this book. I remember being considerably younger and whizzing through through a book each hour, because middle grade fiction is so easy and so fun to read. BeSwitched definitely had this quality--once I started reading, I didn't put the story down. It was something short and sweet that I could go through in one sitting and that's definitely something I loved.
There's a moral--a story that the author has to tell, and I think that's a rare quality in MG/YA books these days. From what I perceived, it tells us to be comfortable in our own skin, that self-esteem is an important quality, not to try and stick to the 'popular' crowd but to be ourselves, that we will make friends even if we are socially isolated. It's about the importance of friendship. And I really liked the message.
I fell in love with Surla instantly, as I do like cats (though I'm a bigger fan of dogs) and her voice was very believable. The characters in the story were all very likeable (apart from the villains, of course) but I thought that some of the secondary characters like Chrissy and Todd lacked some backstory. They seemed rather two-dimensional and flat, and I would've liked to see more reason behind their actions, although I guess there's only so much you can fit into a novella. There is a sequel to the story which I do hope to read, and I assume that the characters will be further developed there.
There were a few minor grammatical and spelling errors that I did find in the text, and I think this book would benefit from another re-read. Otherwise, the quality of writing was quite good. Molly Snow's writing is simple and clean. She doesn't describe things in graphic detail but instead narrates the story with Surla's quirky thoughts and draws us straight the mind of this girl-turned-into-cat, another element that I loved.
However, I do have a quibble with some parts of the story. Being turned into a human (if one were a cat) would be one of the most bizarre situations one could ever find themselves in, and yet somehow, Surla doesn't seem overly surprised when she gets switched into a human. She doesn't know what a 'number' is, for instance, but the speed at which she adapted to a human life and human school completely befuddled me. If I were a cat and I'd spent my life locked in a witch's house doing magic spells for her, I definitely wouldn't be able to blend in at a high school so quickly.
Overview: The book itself was a little predictable but I think that's the nature of middle-grade fiction. Otherwise, it was a short, enjoyable read that many preteens (and the preteens-at-heart like me) will lap up. The story could benefit from some more plot dimensions and a few of the characters could use some more personality, but the flaws weren't so huge that they completely undermined my enjoyment of the book and the bigger picture. Three and a half stars.