Fans of the middle grade time travel classic, Charlotte Sometimes (reviewed here by me) should definitely check out beswitched by Kate Saunders, (2010, 244 pages) as it has many elements in common with this old favorite. It’s hard to compete with Charlotte Sometimes, but beswitched is an engaging read that holds its own.
When Flora Fox’s parents send their daughter off to boarding school, they have no idea that the train will take her back to 1935. On the journey Flora has a strange dream. She wakes up without her laptop or her phone, wearing a hideous uniform with ridiculous bloomers underneath. Slowly, she realizes she has gone back in time! But why?
I found some of the dialogue in the story repetitive. I would have preferred more editing. I like stories in which the main character learns a moral lesson and is new and improved by the end of the book. I understand that for this to be accomplished, that character has to start out with a somewhat flawed personality. However, I was impatient with bratty Flora early in the book. Between not liking the main character and thinking to myself as I read, “You already said that, now do something,” the beginning of the book dragged for me.
However, by at least the middle third of the book I was caught up in the social drama. A boarding school is a great setting for a middle grade or YA book as the residents have even more time together than do kids attending a regular school, so when relationships and alliances are depicted as more intense it is believable. There are many aspects of life in 1935 that 12-year-old Flora has to get used to, but I imagine finding one’s place in a group of girls who possess a strong mix of personalities was much the same then as it is now. Flora has to decide if she is will stand up to bullies, and tattle on a classmates, timeless dilemmas. The melancholy so dominant in Charlotte Sometimes is present in beswitched too, in part because the girls’ parents are absent to various degrees and they miss their comfort.
The characters of several of the girls with whom Flora becomes close are vividly described. I loved the friendships portrayed in the book, especially since it was not only one-on-one friendships described, but also the sometimes complicated dynamics within the small group of friends. Overall, I thought it would have been a stronger book overall were parts of it cut out, but found it to still be a worthwhile read.