Sometimes, you have to get away from home in order to truly see what has been there all along. It is summer vacation, and California-born Sage is anxiously attempting to determine what it is her parents are not saying without asking them outright. Meanwhile, English-born Allie feels mostly invisible as the middle child in a family whose siblings seem to command every bit of attention from their parents. When the two families match on a house swapping site, they both get the opportunity to explore a different life halfway around the world. But the house swap does not go as smoothly as originally intended, and instead of the two families simply living in one another’s spaces, their lives become more richly connected with each passing day.
This delightful middle grade story has many similar features to the Parent Trap, where one American girl and one English girl swap lives for a short time. Instead of sharing parents, though, Sage and Allie share feelings of invisibility and insecurity that seem to disappear when they are together. Told from the perspectives of both girls, the story takes turns showing readers what each character is thinking inside their unique circumstances. Each segment clearly demarcates who is speaking by giving both the character’s name and a quote from a book that is important to each of them. These chapters ultimately are short and succinct, as well, which gives the narrative a quick pace and comfortable delivery.
There is no such thing as a perfect life; often, things only seem better until someone takes the time to step into the shoes of another. This narrative does a good job introducing readers to both Allie and Sage as they investigate their new surroundings despite the trepidation they feel while doing so. Additionally, topics of divorce and sibling rivalry are discussed in ways that tweens will easily relate to. By incorporating these elements, the novel feels more real and the characters are more approachable than they might otherwise be. Fans of stories that focus on friendship, family, and emotional growth are sure to enjoy both the pacing and the delivery of this charming tale. This is an excellent addition to library collections for middle grade readers.
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