Monday, October 6, 2008

Cycler-- Lauren McLaughlin

I really, really wanted to like this book.

But I didn't. *sigh*

Jill is a stereotypical high school girl. She is obsessed with prom, engages in witty banter with her delightfully artsy best friend Ramie, feels misunderstood by her father, and strives to get straight As. Oh, there is one thing that really differentiates her from all the other girls... once a month, for four days, Jill turns into a boy named Jack. The book is narrated in alternating chapters by Jill and Jack.

So, the premise is simple, maybe not super original (anyone remember the 1980's "Classic" Willy/Milly?), but still interesting. The book itself however, was a major disappointment. First, the book opens with an fairly graphic description of Jill physically turning into Jack. I am not at all squeamish or prudish, but the opening scene made me want to put the book down, which is really the opposite reaction an author wants a reader to have! Also, Jack's character was so one dimensional, I had a hard time getting through his chapters. The most disturbing portion of the book was when Ramie let a boy she caught spying on her through her bedroom window into her house and had sex with him... without even knowing his name, let alone all the other things one hopes people talk about before having sex for the first time.

However, the biggest issue I take with this book is the slightly homophobic undertone it has. I do think that Lauren McLaughlin really did not intend for it to be there; actually I think she tried really hard to make it *not* homophobic. Still, there was a bit of stereotype perpetuation and I feel she used sexuality to solve the plot problem she created for herself when she wrote a character who is biologically a cycling hermaphrodite. Maybe I am taking it all too seriously, but I think teens who are sensitive to this type of pigeonholing will pick up on it too.

Overall, I must say this is one of the most disappointing books I have read in months... but still, as always, I'll bet I can find many teens who would enjoy this book. That's one thing I love about giving books to teens... most of the time they aren't looking for fine literature, and really just want an interesting story. I would give this book to girls who like light reading, romance, and comedy... maybe girls who enjoyed E. Lockhart's Fly on the Wall (a much better book IMHO). Be sure to keep your audience in mind when recommending this book because Jack's sections are full of masturbation and porn references.

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