Game Changer is the most recent of Neal Shusterman’s novels. While a prolific writer, this is the first novel I have read by him. It is a little bit science fiction, a little bit current events, and a whole lot of ‘make you think.’
The main characters, especially Ash, are highly relatable. The average teenager struggling with relationships, defining their worldview, grappling with how to change the things in this world that they do not agree with/do not like. The cast is a mix of males, females, ethnicities, and worldviews. Overall, the characters were quite well rounded, and I think most readers will find a character within the novel that they can relate to quite easily.
I think readers will really enjoy how the reality changes in this book are handled. Most people will understand how the concept of a hit in football works and to use that as the basis for what triggers event shifts was really imaginative. I think it also may appeal to readers who don’t normally pick up a science fiction genre because the science in this story is straightforward and doesn’t require an expert knowledge of astrophysics. Even the explanations provided by characters around space-time continuum are basic enough that non-science lovers won’t be thrown.
Shusterman was very open and honest in the forward of this book regarding the subject matter. This novel tackles a lot of hot button topics in current world events like racism, sexual orientation, gender, and equity. It is a novel that is ripe with conversation points and would make a great group read for additional discussion. The novel does represent some topics from one perspective but isn’t overtly aggressive in doing so and provides a thought-provoking narrative. The final chapters were chock-full of quotes that I think will leave many readers deep in thought for quite some time.
This is a good read and one that I would recommend for readers looking to sharpen their thinking skills around current world events in a manner that is instantly relatable to younger audiences.
Review of an Advance Reading Copy
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Quill Tree Books
Profanity/Language: 4 religious exclamations, 53 mild obscenities, 6 religious profanities, 6 derogatory names, 37 scatological words, 29 anatomical terms, 1 offensive hand gesture; 13 f-word derivatives.
Violence and Gore: Minor injuries including broken rib from football or football related; report of running over a squirrel (accidentally) with bike leading to death of animal; multiple verbal threats one with knife and gun; recall of being burned and hit and run accident; smack to hands; teenager is beaten by three adults without major injury; two instances of recalling hate crimes with limited to no detail; teenager accidentally breaks adult’s nose; girl recalls being held by throat and shoved against wall; blood depictions from fight injuries; 1 page domestic violence scene between teens with girl forcefully hit in face and teen boy hits another with baseball bat in neck fracturing vertebra.
Sex and Nudity: Multiple instances of arm around shoulder or waist in possessive manner; two references to sex or hooking up; 7 instances of kissing between same sex and opposite sex couples; reference to erection; inner monologue about gay or coming out; 4 instances of hand-holding.
Mature Subject Matter:
Racial, gender and socioeconomic conflict; death of family member; divorce; addiction; domestic abuse both physical, emotional and verbal; gender/sex identity; ethics; illegal drugs.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Teen deals drugs from weed to cocaine; adults drink various forms of alcohol.