Neal Shusterman | Feb 2021 | 400 pp
Oh, Neal. Lol. My introduction to Shusterman was the Scythe series, which I LOVED, every and all parts. I figured I was on a role with him and wanted a sure thing read, so I started Game Changer with high hopes. On the surface – it gave what it was supposed to give. But, if you dig too deep/ask me too many questions, I’d have to admit I caught some problematic vibes – like, this was a one note nod to the woke white male and how its his responsibility to save us all. Gawd help us.
Our beloved white male hero is Ash, high school championship footballer, first son of upper middle class rich family, aloof boyfriend to most popular, pretty girl in school. Ash is playing in a game when a particularly hard hit sends him spiraling into a parallel universe where he discovers things can get very different.
The first jump, bounces Ash to an alternate timeline where the Supreme Court never ruled against segregation. So, his best friend Leo doesn’t go to his school and works in a supermarket on the other side of town, where he faces down mean, degrading customers all day instead of focusing on his studies In another timeline Ash is a drug dealer, peddling pills at his high school, and gay in another. Along the way, being exposed to these different realities helps Ash gain a more open mind about his true self and ultimately helps him help his friends in his true reality.
Pros: I don’t know about you but, whenever I hear some uber judgmental and/or mainstream person speaking on matters they may never encounter and/or would only benefit from: racism, sexism, homophobia, for example, I have a strong desire for karma to breeze through and give them a shove into a situation they can’t easily be white/straight/rich/male out of- ya feel me? Well this book does that. We follow Ash as he and his buddies navigate racism, inequality, abusive teen relationships, a quasi revenge porn plot, all the while trying to figure out how to find his way back through the rabbit hole to home. Ash manages all of this with a grace and an open-mindedness I probably wouldn’t share, bless is heart.
Cons: For the most part, Ash is alone in his travels living him to figure out everything on his own. This is what leads to the overall downside of Ash looking like our single white savior. The book also gets a bit preachy and frankly unbelievable as Ash seems to manage finding out he’s gay, has no black friends and is a drug dealer with little to no issue. 🤦🏾♀️
Overall its a goods story with interesting characters you’ll quickly forget are seniors in high school. You will realize there is ultimately no point to this story except to watch Ash evolve. If the journey isn’t enough, skip this one. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind visiting Ash 20 years in the future, to see if any of his life lessons actually stick. Good book 34/2021
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