Life is What You Make of It
'Switched at Birthday' by Natalie Standiford is a cute fantasy story about the power of empathy. Main characters Lavender and Scarlet are polar opposites. While Lavender tries very hard to stay on the sidelines and live life according to no one's rules but her own, Scarlet is Little Miss Popular, navigating the treacherous hallways of middle school with unabashed ease. The only thing the two girls have in common is the day they were born. Even though they are aware of each other's existence, they both are more than content in their daily lives and don't wish to see anything change. However, when they find themselves each thinking, even if just for a moment, what life would be like in someone else's shoes, they find themselves transported, unwittingly and unwillingly, into each other's bodies. Even though they look different, their minds are still their own, and their confusion upon learning of the unintentional switch sparks a host of dilemmas that the girls have to find ways to conquer together.
Aside from the back and forth conversations between the girls that were sometimes hard to follow in terms of who was talking, since their voices tended to mesh together at times, the lessons learned as a result of the body switch are quite telling. There is certainly the most common idea of learning to literally walk in someone else's shoes and empathize with her on a level that one would never even think possible. Yet, there is also the concept of finding out that what you thought you knew about someone is really quite different, like how the way someone projects their life at school can be very different than the life she actually has at home.
The story is somewhat cliche, but sweet, and it provides a nice look into how it is worth getting to know someone at more than face value to determine how one really might feel about him or her. Friends aren't always what they're cracked up to be, enemies might not be quite so bad, and acquaintances might turn out to be your strongest allies. 'Switched at Birthday' does a fine job in capturing how terrifying and exciting middle school can be, no matter what end of the popularity spectrum one falls on, and prepares readers for the muddied waters that go along with pretending to be someone you're not, even if you don't have any control over what's happening in your life at any given moment.