For most 16-year-olds, having to move into a small bungalow with their grandparents is not appealing, let alone something to enjoy. For Simon though, it becomes a safe place to be, away from bullies at school. After his parents die, his grandmother and him spend their time reading together, sharing a love for books like no other, and discover the Great Big Book Exchange.
“That was the nature of presents. You kept them in the giver’s stead. They were a small part of that person to keep.”
The story itself aside, the beauty of this book is simply in the idea such a place could exist; a heaven for readers! There are a few places out there, but there can never be enough of them! The Exchange celebrates books and readers, real readers, the people who will choose the world between the lines of a book over the secret life of celebrities in magazines or film full of special effects.
For Simon’s grandmother, Ada, the place brings back memories of discovering her youth, when she discovered a local first-time author “I had to be content to be just a reader.” Simon answers: “There’s no just about it. That’s what we are. Proper readers.”
Proper readers is what the book is about. It is about readers, for readers; and naturally full of books!
Ada and Simon aren’t alone at the Exchange and Simon soon meets Kelly and finds another proper reader to talk to. Their relationship is one of the most beautiful aspects of the book; Kelly’s first dinner at the bungalow – despite Simon’s worries of his grandad Ray meeting the book-loving goth girl – is a wonderfully written scene. Ray gets jealous of his wife, who can lose herself in a book and choose the world she travels to, and the situation escalates. In the end, there is a lesson of carpe diem in the book. Life is not perfect and the book ends not in a happy-ending but realistically, but with a little carpe diem, you can overcome whatever life throws in your way. Isn’t that what we readers like to see in books? That life goes on and we can learn to make the most of it?
Exchange, by Paul Magrs
First published 2008
ISBN: 1416916636; ISBN13: 9781416916635