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Support structures again…

November 2, 2011

I’m just thinking

What rules, official and social, do adolescents live by? Which ones affect their access to support during difficulties?

This question came to mind reading Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover, when Laura ‘scrambles’ into her school uniform – “all regulation clothes except for the underpants, because it was a point of honour with all the girls at school never to wear school underpants.  It was a stricter rule than any the school could invent.” (p3) Astute observer that she is, Mahy points to the existence of rules that guide adolescents in the world that does not belong to adults…

“‘Sorry Carlisle is a witch!’ she said. ‘No one knows but me.’  Kate did not laugh or tell her not to be silly.  She knew when things were serious even when she was driving around a fairy ring of oildrums standing in the middle of the road.” (my emphasis, p11) I like Kate’s character here: Mahy makes a point of making her someone who takes Laura’s overtly misguided concerns seriously. In fact, The Changeover is not short on characters that merit study in terms of how the adolescent protagonist is guided/supported in terms of the problems and challenges she encounters in the course of this novel; consider, for example:

“‘I didn’t choose to suffer,’ Laura answered resentfully.  ‘You can choose not to though,’ he assured her.” (p112)


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