Contemporary · Review

Review: Exchange by Paul Magrs

I came across this book by accident (or serendipity?) while searching for a customer’s book at the YA section. I’ve always said that it’s unwise to send me to the YA section for any reason; I’d go there with only the thought of getting that one book that a customer wants, or to find someone, and I’d come back with a pile of books in my arms and a very dazed, what the hell just happened? look on my face. Okay, lately I don’t find the section as irresistible as I used to, but that’s only because Kit no longer brings in hardcovers of not-so-popular titles (i.e. not Gossip Girl, Mr. Midnight, etc). That’s another story to be told another time.

This book by Paul Magrs caught my attention because (1) it is by Paul Magrs, who has two books in my fantasy section, and (2) the cover just caught my eye. I liked the colourful swirl of alphabets. I picked it up and scanned the back cover, and I saw the words “Great Big Book Exchange” and the phrase “united by their voracious appetite for novels”, and I thought, hey, this book was calling out to me! Why else would I notice a single spined copy amidst a full shelf of books, all shouting “read me! read me!” Haha.

Once I started it, though, I stopped a couple of times. Not for very long. I just had to clear my head several times and get used to the language. I can’t really describe or say why I had misgivings about the language; I just did. And I also thought, haven’t I read this author before? I checked, and found out that I owned a book called Strange Boy by Paul Magrs, that I started and didn’t finish because of the same reason. I think a part of it was not being able to relate to the characters much. I could relate to their love for books, but I couldn’t relate to them. Maybe if it was written in the first person, I could enjoy it more. As it is, I liked the story and the idea of it, but try as I might, I wasn’t transported into that world. If YA is my drug of choice, well, this book gave me a buzz but not a real high. That’s the only way I know how to put it, I guess.

I do love the idea of the Great Big Book Exchange – it’s similar to the shop I used to go as a child, in Central Market. Actually, the store is still there now, but they hardly have YA or childrens’ books now, and are overwhelmed with Mills & Boons romances. When I was a kid, though, I loved that place. It was where I got my Sweet Valleys and Christopher Pikes and Enid Blytons. There was also a rental bookshop (another bookstore with the same idea as the Great Big Book Exchange) in Jusco, which my mother would take me to every weekend. I never returned any of the books I took, though; I was possessive about my reading material even then. And that’s the other thing that I didn’t relate to in Exchange, Winnie’s conclusion that people shouldn’t hoard books. (Yeah. I was going like, gasp! horror!) 

In the end I’d say that this book is actually enjoyable enough (once I got used to the language; maybe the fact that I read the beautifully written Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You before this book didn’t help) that I plan to look for my copy of Strange Boy and give it another try. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is a bibliophile, but definitely not to reluctant readers.

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