“You are not going to believe me, nobody in their right minds could possibly believe me, but it's true, really it is! When I woke up this morning, I found I'd turned into my mother.”
This is the opening of Freaky Friday, the novel by Mary Rodgers. Published in 1972, this story of a thirteen-year-old New York girl who finds herself in her mother’s body for the day has been adapted into three movies (in 1976, 1995 and 2003) and has generated numerous spin-offs. It has also been a big influence on my writing, as it was a book I adored and read hundreds of times in my childhood. In fact, the first thing I did as soon as I got the go-ahead to write a body swap book of my own, Swapped by a Kiss, was to buy myself a copy of Freaky Friday (a 1976 version with Jodie Foster on the cover, to be specific) and settle down to read it again. And, since it’s Time Travel Tuesday here on I Was a Teenage Book Geek, it’s time to answer the all-important question: did one of my favourite childhood novels stand the test of time for me?
In a word: yes! In three words: yes yes yes! This book was everything I remembered and more. Light and funny but with a hint of realistic family drama and a dash of potential romance, it captured my imagination all over again. There were a few things I’d forgotten about the book; things that are very different from the film versions. For example, I quickly remembered that the whole book is written from Annabel’s point of view and her mother is barely in it. In fact, there’s a mystery as to who exactly is in Annabel’s body and where it has gone. I’d also forgotten that the body swap itself is completely unexplained (which happens to be a fiction device I love – though possibly Freaky Friday is the origin of that love!) There are no magic amulets or incantations in this story. Lastly, I only had hazy memories of the wonderful ending which brings the book triumphantly full-circle.
The things I remembered were still there, too, and not in any way dulled by time. The chatty writing style and the way Annabel addresses the reader directly – complete with a small amount of fourth-wall-breaking – feels right up to date. The author’s creative use of parentheses, all-caps and jokey asides was surely ahead of its time. Annabel Andrews is as witty and inventive with her language and thought processes as Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson, and I warmed instantly to her all over again. I totally sympathised with Annabel over the perfection of her little brother, ‘Ape Face’, and the trials of her family and school life. I was right with her as she struggled to cope with being a grown-up, too – heck, I think I related to her even more than I did when I was a child, seeing as I now frequently do feel quite a lot like a teenager trapped inside the body of a responsible mother-type. Those issues Annabel had with washing machines and ringing people to repair things? Yup. I’m so there.
Sure, the vocabulary in this book is occasionally a little dated, but just as Lauren said about Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? in her recent Time Travel Tuesday review, it was probably already dated when I first read it. If anything, the seventies slang added to the book’s charm, especially in scenes like Annabel’s hilarious parents’ meeting with her own teachers. This scene is tied with another one for the position of my favourite part of the book: the final revelation about boy-next-door Boris and the meatloaf he’s cooking to help Annabel out. Even though I knew what was coming – it’s possibly the thing I remember most clearly about the whole book – it had me in stitches all over again.
If you’ve never read this book, or if you haven’t read it for years, I recommend picking it up for a reading treat that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It’s lively, silly, funny, imaginative, escapist. It’s everything I loved about fiction as a child, and everything I still love now.
Thank you Luisa for a brilliant guest post!
Luisa Plaja's own body swap novel, Swapped By A Kiss, is published in the UK on April 29th 2010.