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Switched at Birth: What Could Go Wrong?

2012 October 1
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Parents can drive you nuts. You live with them for your entire life, and they don’t understand you at all. Sometimes they seem to be a completely different species. For Wendy Everly in Amanda Hocking’s book, Switched, that is exactly what she finds out. There was a plausible reason why Wendy’s mother tried to stab her to death at age six: her mom thought Wendy was a monster. It turns out that in the eyes of some humans, Wendy is a monster. She’s a trylle. That’s why she gets swept away by a dark, handsome fellow to her real life as a princess.

Okay, show of hands. How many of you, dear readers, have fantasized that you were switched at birth? That you have another whole identity, possibly with supernatural powers, which will be revealed on some magical date in the future? It’s an excellent fantasy for weekend nights spent babysitting your little brother while your parents go out on a date. It’s also an excellent idea to build a novel around. Imagine: Boy turns eleven and discovers that he is actually a powerful wizard, not the unwanted cousin forced to live under the stairs. It explains a lot of things.

If there is to be a big revelation about secret origins, it’s definitely a plus if you are a super-precious prince or princess who has been hidden from dangers lurking in the royal nursery. (Think Sleeping Beauty.) It’s possible that your humble home may be a guise to keep you safe. Yet this is a plan that could backfire, as it did for Princess Nalia in The False Princess by Eilis O’Neal. As the real princess, she was tucked safely away in a convent until danger had passed. It was a pretty big shock for the false princess, Sinda, when she was tossed from her life of privilege and the only parents she’d ever known. However, as things turn out, there may be more than one false princess in this story.

Being adopted opens a whole range of possibilities concerning birth parents. Sometimes there are hints. In Wings by Aprilynne Pike, Laurel has some unusual characteristics: a diet of vegetables and Sprite, illuminated hair that does not require shampoo, a yearning to be outdoors at all times, and never getting cold. When she begins sprouting wings, however, her eccentricities are seen in a new light. Fortunately, Laurel meets another of her kind, and extra-fortunately, he is attractive. Jessica, heroine of Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey, has similar good fortune. The gorgeous new guy at school, Lucien, reveals that Jessica is actually a vampire princess and that he is to be her vampire prince.

Fantasy aside, you could discover, like Rosie in Someone Else’s Life by Katie Dale, that you might have a 50% chance of inheriting a fatal disease. Then you find that it’s not your genetic fate, because you were switched at birth with another infant. There is much that Rosie learns in her subsequent journey to find her own birth parents. In The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder, switched-at-birth Amber tumbles into love the day before she is to meet her biological parents for the first time.

For better or worse, being switched at birth surely brings surprises later on the road of life. It almost makes you appreciate the folks who act like your real parents.

— Diane Colson, currently reading The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig and listening to The Diviners by Libba Bray, narrated by January LaVoy

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