Amanda Hocking’s self-published book Switched has multi-millions of copies. I’ve personally contributed two of those sales, having purchased the book, accidentally left it on a plane, cut a forlorn figure at the lost-and-found counter, and then, as the book hadn’t been handed in, bought a second copy to read on the flight back home.
I’ll admit that my first purchase was merely to determine what all the fuss was about. My second, though, was because I was hooked. Seriously. Switched isn’t going to be lauded in centuries’ time as one of the great writing tomes of the world, but it is a great young-adult book.
So great, in fact, that I was prepared to own my shame and stand describing the book to a rather grumpy, disinterested airport official who told me he’d have to specially open the lost-and-found counter to go look for the book I was after. The not-so-subtle subtext of his statement was that he didn’t want to open it at all.
I made him open it anyway and then applied my best I’m-not-dying-inside face while describing what clearly wasn’t a capital-‘l’-literature book: ‘Um, it’s called Switched and it’s got a kind of blue and grey cover with a girl and butterflies on it.’
Either it hadn’t yet been handed in or someone had found it, become similarly hooked, and decided to snarfoo it for themselves (I’m giving the guy the benefit of the doubt and not assuming he didn’t actually look for it), but Switched is what I kind of expected and that I hinted at in my previous blog. That is that it’s a good story executed by someone who can write.
The tagline is the suitably vague, broad, and mysterious ‘What if your entire world was built on a lie?’ and the book opens with the protagonist’s attempted murder by her mum. Fast forward a decade or so and you find that the protagonist survived but has never quite found herself to fit in.
I won’t say any more for fear of ruining the plot, but Switched had me from page three and will, now that I’ve finished book one, likely have me for the entire trilogy. I can see why this self-published book has sold a motza.
That said, it is a little clunky. It reads like a second or third draft that hasn’t been massaged and smoothed out by an editor. I guess that’s the danger of the ability to press publish before a book’s ready and a reminder that editors are writers’ unsung heroes. Still, while the text leaps from A to C with not a heap of subtlety, the telegraphing of the plot points aren’t enough to put me off.
Sure, the goodie and baddie characters are a little too black-and-white stereotypical. Sure, it’s a little clunky how the book bluntly tells key information rather than deftly shows it. And sure, it’s a little clichéd that the aloof bodyguard character is in love with the protagonist and their push–pull relationship veers from 0 to 100 and back to 0 with no build-up or warning.
But it’s testament to Hocking’s storytelling skills that I was willing to re-buy the book and that I’m ordering books two and three now. If you need me, I’ll be hanging around my letterbox waiting for them to arrive.