From the Archives: "A Fairy Touched You With Her Wand"

Today was a sick day for me, which meant watching a couple episodes of my favorite online TV shows, catching a few extra Zs, and picking a mindless book to read while I rested on the couch incapacitated. The winner: Sharing Susan by Eve Bunting (1991).

Susan Moretti's parents have a secret, and whatever it is, it's not good news. Are they getting a divorce? Did someone lose their job? Oh, no—Susan was switched at birth. The other girl (Marlene, or the real Susan, however you want to think about it) has died, and suddenly Susan's bio-mom and dad, the Stobbels, want her as a replacement. The parents meet with their lawyers and decide that after finishing out sixth grade in her current school, Susan will spend most of the summer with her new family, go back to her non-bio parents for the month of August, and then start living full-time with the Stobbels and their four-year-old son Jeremy after that. With visits to Mr. and Mrs. Moretti on holidays and weekends.

Understandably unhappy camper Susan writes desperate letters to her grandparents (the ones she always thought were her grandparents), acts like a brat, and even shaves off her eyebrows in an attempt to eliminate her resemblance to Mr. Stobbel. But she's pretty quickly won over by Jeremy, and in the end we all learn a lesson: Love is not a candy bar. Um, something about not running out of pieces to give away?

So yeah, this book has a totally unrealistic storyline. Said Kirkus Reviews back in the day:

Surely the wise, kind parents ... would consult a 12-year-old concerning her own fate; surely taking her from the only parents she knows for a majority of the time, without her consent, is not in her best interests; and surely any transition would be more painful, and take longer, than is suggested here.

But it clearly tapped into the 10-12 year old mindset. Reading this inspired one of my aborted early novels, which was coincidentally about a girl who was switched at birth! Except that I think the other switch-ee was still alive, cause that seems to make things more interesting. I must have also been influenced by the 1991 TV movie Switched at Birth, based on the true story of Kimberly Mays and Arlena Twigg. I remember feeling sorry for Arlena, who got sent home with the wrong parents and saddled with such a country hick name and then died. In conclusion, being switched at birth became a minor fascination for me around the age of 10. Thank you, Eve Bunting.


Jen said...

Andrea, I hope you are feeling better. I love sicks days. Well despite the sick feeling. Just the excuse to lay in bed all day can be nice.

That book sounds bananas. I'm going to track it down.

Have you heard yet about Diablo Cody penning a Sweet Valley High MOVIE? She's been tweeting with SVH characters on Twitter and it's hilarious. Lady knows her stuff. (my favorite was her to tweet to Bruce Patman about lightly touching her breasts).

andrea jean said...

Thanks, I am much better now! And YES on the Diablo Cody SVH movie. I am excited to see what she'll do with it. I don't own many of the books, but the news just inspired me to start re-reading the first one. So much drama!

Jen said...

I'm embarrassed to say (well only slightly) that I am an avid 80's YA book collector and have amassed about 6 crates full. This included my fairly expensive purchase of 150+ SVH books a few years ago.

I swore I would read them all again, but it's been slow going. There's too much current good stuff to read instead!

(and I will never forgive my little sister for selling all of my pre-teen books for clothes cash as soon as I moved out of the house! arggg)

PS: I like your current avatar with the WTWTA t-shirt! so cute.

Sadako said...

I totally read this! And I even remember the detail about the eyebrow shaving.

I didn't remember that the ending was that she'd go live with her non bio parents. But now reading this, I'm like...WTF? If they realized after say, a few months or a year, I could see switching back. Maybe. But after the kid is already a teenager or preteen? She's never going to think of her bio parents as her real parents.

I had the same gripe with Janie Johnson/Whatever Happened to Janie. You can't just give a kid back after all those years. Granted it didn't work out for Janie but everyone acted like it was her fault for not trying hard enough. Dude, you can't just switch families at age 15! Not when you already have a family you love. I remember being so pissed when I recapped those books.