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In addition to my fascination with camp books, I've always loved books about twins. Real-life twin sisters DeVillers and Roy have crafted a heap of fun with their novel TRADING FACES
. The twin protagonists of this book couldn't be less alike - we have Payton, the klutzy, overexcited fashionista dreaming of popularity and boys during this, their first year in public school; and Emma, the brain who is hovering on the edge of dorkdom without being fully aware of it, and worrying that she won't be able to function without having Payton by her side constantly. The authors let you know from the very beginning just how different these identical twins are. A taste of that, first from Payton: I was seriously excited. I'd spent the last six years in a small girls' school. And by small I mean there was only class in each grade. It was the same people over and over every year. But not this year...because I was switching to public school! Heck yeah, I was psyched. Switching classes! Different teachers! After-school activities! My own locker! New people! CUTE GUYS!
And the flip side, from Emma:I wish it were last year. I loved our small school: I knew everybody, and I knew what to expect. Everything was under control. In elementary school I knew who I was. Emma the Brain. Emma the Achiever. Emma with the near-photographic memory. But in middle school there would be kids from all over. Smart, talented students. More competition. The pressure would be ON. This middle school was huge. It had three stories and four wings. I'd looked at the website and found out there were 655 seventh graders and 710 eighth graders.655 + 710 ____ 1365 - (me + Payton) = 13631363 total strangers in this school!I shuddered.
Unfortunately, Emma's fears (rather than Payton's hopes) come true. School is an unequivocal disaster for both of them. Instead of impressing the teachers and her fellow students with her smarts, Emma makes a series of unfortunate mistakes that send exactly the opposite message. Payton had hoped to impress the popular girls with her fashionable clothes, which she obtained at summer camp by basically serving as a slave to a girl who had awesome clothes and agreed to give them to Payton in exchange for services. It's going fairly well until she accidentally dumps a giant burrito on the shirt of one of the popular boys. Payton flees the lunchroom and sends a desperate text to Emma, who comes up with a surprising solution: she will switch clothes with Payton and pretend to be her for the afternoon. Hanging out with your friends is all about faking confidence? I can do confident,
Emma says. She'd been very confident in herself before making an idiot out of herself at this new school; surely she could pull out her confidence again to fake it as Payton. So the girls switch clothes, and off they go for the afternoon. Suddenly everything is different. As each pretends to be the other, they find themselves standing up for their twin. Emma decides to give Payton a slightly more academic reputation than she'd had at their old school. She gives the burrito incident a brushoff in the gym locker room, and her savvy memory earn her some unexpected fashion points with the very girls Payton wants to impress. Payton gets off to a slower start, as she spent the afternoon in the nurse's office. However, once she talks to Emma at home, she begins to see what Emma has already realized: switching places is fun. And now we're off to the races. This is a fun book. It is absolutely a fun book. The language explodes off the page (especially when the voice is Payton's). The switching, as you can imagine, brings much hilarity; it evokes THE PARENT TRAP
without duplicating it. It's hard to get anyone to step out of their comfort zone, so having twins do it for one another (at least at first) is a clever plot device that is executed well here. However, DeVillers and Roy also give their readers a lot to think about. Payton and Emma learn some very valuable stuff about themselves and each other during (and after) their little experiment. What I appreciated is that they don't learn these lessons in a sort of hammer-to-the-head kind of way that a lot of "message" stuff can be dropped into books that are supposed to be more on the fun side. The lessons kind of sneak up on you. Good lessons, lessons that tweens can never hear too often - lessons about popularity, and being true to yourself, and standing up for the people you love, and what kinds of things to value. Also, the things they learn don't fix everything. They don't end the book as perfect people, having learned everything they need to know to live successful lives from that point on. The lessons occur, and some take effect and some don't. Some will probably need to be learned over and over again. But those lessons are wrapped in a giant pile of fun, which is apparently to be continued in at least one sequel. I can't wait to see what Payton and Emma get up to next. I don't know if Roy and DeVillers each wrote one character (the book is told in alternating chapters), but the voices are distinct enough that I'm thinking they did.