Looks like Alice
Looks like Willa
Alice can’t wait to visit Willa in LA – home of Hollywood, where dreams come true. Their plan is to explore the city and see the sights, but then Willa gets the opportunity to work on the film project of her dreams and she can’t say no! The only problem is she is absolutely 100% supposed to be taking part in a beach clean-up. Which, now she thinks of it, sounds pretty perfect for Alice… Can the girls really swap lives again? Cue plotting, outfit swapping and award-winning performances. But everyone knows that real life is nothing like the movies…’
Following on from the summer that had them switching lives, Alice and Willa have remained friends, as promised, and now Alice is headed to visit Willa. However, just before Alice arrives, Willa gets caught-up in her director dreams and inadvertently disrupts some exams at her new school with a flash mob, leading her to be assigned to work four hours a day at a beach clean-up so that she can learn to think about others. This in itself might have been okay, what with working at the Shore Thing seeming to be just what Alice would enjoy, but Willa has also managed to get herself a place working on a student film project that could finally get her noticed more than her fledgling Youtube channel is managing to achieve. Alice’s journey to LA has found her wishing she could be the person she feels she became when she was pretending to be Willa last summer, especially now that she is struggling to fit in at a new school and is growing increasingly lonely, and so it only takes a little bit of suggestion from Willa for her to suggest that they should switch places again: Alice will work at the beach, while Willa works on the film.
I felt quite conflicted about Willa for a lot of this book, I kept reminding myself that she is young and still very much at the age where the slightest of things not going your way can feel like a disaster and that everyone and the whole world is against you. There is an awful lot of pressure on young people to achieve while they are young, with the media in particular suggesting that success only happens in youth, and it being this field that Willa wants to work in – and having seen how it treats her parents – it is not surprising that she is so desperately focused on what she wants to achieve in film, often to the detriment of other things. Her treatment of Alice is what bothered me the most, as she is very, very late to realise that she is essentially using her and hasn’t demonstrated that she cares for her in the best way that she could. Yes, Alice is having fun and gets to have an adventure of her own, but Willa really does push her luck this time, and I was glad to see that Alice speaks up when she decides enough is enough.
Both the girls learn a lot about themselves in this instalment, though it seems that what Alice learns about what she wants from her life and what she needs to do is more consciously done (being that she already knows what she feels she wants to change), whereas Willa is more blinkered and needs others to point out how her behaviour is being perceived for her to fully realise how she has been treating people and why she isn’t immediately adored, appreciated and making the progress she wants. Alice’s experience almost feels more deserved, as she is the one pushing herself outside of her usual comfort zone and isn’t exactly having the holiday that she believed she would (though the beach clean-up is pretty perfect for her). The girls’ journeys are opposites in many respects: Alice’s to push herself beyond her worries, and Willa’s to stop taking that leap and think about those around her before she forges ahead.
Through text messages, we also get to hear from some of the characters from the first book, Hal and Luca, who are still chatting to who they met (as the other) previously. I loved these little insights and I hope that we get to see more of them in a future book (I assume the next will focus on the wedding of Alice’s dad and Mabel?) somehow. I really enjoyed Alice’s interaction with Luca and co and hope they get to see each other in person again. It would be nice to see how Alice settles into school and the new house.
The Switch Up: LA Exchange is the perfect summer read, full of fun schemes and adventures, while not abandoning deeper messages about friendship, family and dreams. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series for far and look forward to more! Thank you, Little Tiger/Stripes Books for sending me a copy!