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Gender Bender    by Blake Nelson order for
Gender Bender
by Blake Nelson
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Neighbours Emma Baker and Tom Witherspoon have been friends through elementary school, but all that changes in grade 6. Tom won't let Emma into the tree fort they built together before fourth grade, and Emma hangs out with a girls' clique, the feminist Grrlzillas, whose motto is 'Not all boys are pervs, but all pervs are boys.'

Emma is an A student, a musician, and a gymnast, whose life is over-scheduled. Tom's main interests are baseball and a Klickitat arrowhead he found in the woods, with writing on one side. While Tom has the arrowhead in a pocket, he collides hard with Emma on the trampoline - when they regain consciousness, they've switched bodies. Research eventually yields the information that they've been subjected to 'The Tohaka Love Curse', and must learn to get along before it can be reversed.

A series of amusing incidents follow as Emma seeks instructions for using the bathroom with her new equipment, Tom creates pandemonium to avoid a piano lesson he can't handle, Emma experiences a boner, and Tom his first period. They both end up leagues out of their comfort zones, but also learn a great deal about the opposite sex - and about each other as individuals - in the process. Their mishap ties in nicely to study of gender differences in Ms. Andre's health class that pairs up boys with girls (naturally Emma and Tom are together).

Of course, all's well that ends well, Tom and Emma get their bodies back, and they ace their gender presentation. To explain it, Tom aptly tells Ms. Andre, 'We've kind of always been in each other's heads.' Read Gender Bender for an engaging account of an adolescent body swap, and what can be learned - and unlearned - in the process.

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