Review: Cycler

Cycler – Lauren McLaughlin

Taking the pain and trauma of menstrual cramps to the extreme, Jill doesn’t become bloated or moody in the days before her period, she transforms into Jack.  Jack gets four days a month, but his parents consider him an intruder and keep him more or less (more and more as the book goes on) locked in his room.  In the three years since Jack started appearing, Jill has segregated every trace of him from her life and her mind.  But Jill’s memories are all Jack knows of the world, and he deeply treasures those that include her best friend, Ramie.  Jill is obsessed with finding the perfect prom date, though eventually learns that “perfect” and “prom” aren’t as important as Tommy, even if his bisexuality challenges her self-imposed notions of femininity.  And when Jack starts sneaking out at night to romance Ramie, it leads to a dangerous game of brinksmanship with Jill’s mom.

The beginning of the book almost lost me.  There was a contrived plot about seducing Tommy using a “The Rules” type book.  Luckily that was abandoned pretty quickly.  And Jill was so relentlessly feminine and boring.  But eventually the reasons for this came under discussion and she began to change and also lose control.  Then it became a much more interesting book.  Jack’s emotions and feelings start leaking into her head, and affecting her in ways she finds disturbing.  So she is all for the increasingly harsh restrictions her Mom puts Jack under, anything to keep him away from Ramie and to keep sexual thoughts about her best friend out of her head.  And the way in which it all gets brought to a head at the end of the book is very satisfying, but then it’s over and it’ll be another year until the next comes out.  All the interesting ideas brought up about sexuality and gender will have wait until then to be tested out.  Because even if Tommy is bi, Jack isn’t.  And Ramie and Jill don’t think they are, but aren’t completely freaking out.

This book has gotten a fair amount of attention, including a review on Boing Boing.  It’ll be interesting to see if teens take to it the way adults have.  There is sex, sexy but not graphic.  More graphic are a couple of the descriptions of transition from boy to girl and back.  Recommended for 14+


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