One of my all time favourite chicklit reads is Luisa Plaja's Split By A Kiss, in which Brit teen Jo moves to America... and finds herself literally split in two following a disastrous kiss with the school hottie. In Swapped By A Kiss, we revisit some of the same characters as they meet up at a music festival in muddy old England. But this time around, we're mostly hanging out with Jo's 'gothically inclined' American classmate, Rachel. Kind of. Because thanks to a badly-timed kiss and an even more badly-timed wish at the beginning of the story, Rachel spends most of the novel inhabiting Jo's body. Which means the real Jo is transported into Rachel's body, leading to a case of major confusion for the switchees... and mucho hilarity for the reader.
Having read both of Luisa Plaja's previous novels, I was prepared for Swapped By A Kiss. I started reading it at home, with absolutely no strangers present to witness the inevitable descent into giggles, snorts and giggle-snorts I knew would ensue. Unfortunately, I then had to go out, and managed to find myself reading the side-splittingly funny 'glow pants' episode on a train full of suited types who (bless them) did a marvellous job of pretending not to notice my unrestrained guffawing. As in Split By A Kiss, most of the big chuckles come courtesy of Jo's best American friend, the seriously clueless Tori. An airhead with a heart of gold, Tori's ditzy outlook on the world is the perfect match for main character Rachel's super-spiky snark.
However, Swapped By A Kiss isn't just played for laughs. As body swap stories go, this one is a little more subtle than the familiar parent / teenager or male / female switcheroos. After all, Rachel and Jo are friends. They're the same age, they go to the same school, and they've even hung out a little. They think they know all there is to know about each others' lives. But, of course, they don't. Thanks to the switch, Rachel gets the chance to really test her hypothesis that her life would be easier if she were Jo - and Jo is given the opportunity to get to know who her friend Rachel really is, beneath the hair dye and the tough grrrl exterior. It's an eye-opener for both of them, but especially for Rachel, who also gets a taste of what it's like to be free of the persona she's created. As Jo, Rachel can finally let herself go and make new friends and even show her glowing pants... er, I mean try spreading a little harmony instead of disorder. Unusually for a Young Adult title, there's also a great deal of insight into that tricky 'what-happens-next' stage of teenage relationships.
Swapped By A Kiss is smart, funny and utterly adorable. It's the kind of book that'll pick you up when you're feeling down, and it also delivers one of those killer plot twists that Luisa Plaja does so very well. In fact, I think it just might be her best novel yet. Readers looking for an upbeat, girly read with a lovably snarky main character should definitely reach for this one.