Amanda Hocking is the self-publishing wunderkind who’s recently turned the publishing world on its ear by showing how books can be successfully made and marketed on the Internet with a little creativity and a shoestring budget. The Cinderella story may seem to have happened overnight, but Hocking worked damn hard for her pumpkin carriage as evidenced by the epic tale on her blog: http://amandahocking.blogspot.com/2010/08/epic-tale-of-how-it-all-happened.html.
I couldn’t get a hold of Hocking’s original ebook of Switched so I checked out the souped-up version put out by traditional publisher St. Martin’s Griffin. The story reminds me slightly of my favorite book when I was in grade school—The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.
The story’s protagonist is Wendy Everly, a teen who’s always had a problem with fitting in. She’s gone to many schools but has never felt quite right there or in her family. Wendy grew up in a well-to-do family, and she can remember the fancy house that she grew up in … until her mother tried to kill her.
Wendy was a cranky kid, and on her sixth birthday her mother tried to carve her up with a butcher knife, proclaiming her a monster and not her real daughter. Since then, her mother has been committed to a mental hospital and Wendy’s been raised by her older brother and aunt.
Wendy tries to get along at her latest high school, which she helps along with a unique power that she’s discovered. She’s found that she can convince people to go along with what she wants. There are a few other strange traits that set Wendy apart from others. She has wild, unruly hair that’s almost impossible to work with, she hates wearing shoes, and weirdest of all, she’s an anti–junk food teen who actually craves raw veggies and unprocessed crap.
She notices an especially intense boy at school who is always looking at her—Finn Holmes. She finds it creepy but is also slightly turned on by it. They dance around each other, and Finn starts telling her some crazy stuff—that she’s not who she thinks she is. Wendy sends him on his way, but when enemies attack, wanting Wendy to further their goals, Finn is forced to bring Wendy back to Förening (yay, umlauts!), a troll community hidden away in Minnesota, where she happens to be the princess of the trolls.
At Förening, Wendy is introduced to the Queen, her mother, who is cold and distant. Wendy is kept in the dark about much of the Trylle goings-on, but she gradually learns about their caste system, rules, and so on. At the same time, she feels like as much of a misfit as ever—even with the new title.
For the most part, I enjoyed Switched. The idea of a teenage troll is fresh and different, and I love the solution the trolls have come up with to fuel their economy, though it backfired on Wendy. What I want most is a copy of the ebook Switched to compare with the St. Martin’s version of Switched. I’m curious to see the DIY cover compared to St. Martin’s slick book design, and I want to see what kinds of editing changes were made. The last chapter of Switched completely took me out of the story because it was so different from the rest of the book. It really did seem like a tacked-on affair, and I believe in a strong finish, not a blow-by-blow passive voice description of what happened next. I want to know if this chapter was a St. Martin’s editor’s choice or not.
I am looking forward to reading Torn, the second part of the Trylle trilogy, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for other books and series by Hocking. I think she’s going to be a young author worth watching in the coming years.