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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Cycler* by Lauren McLaughlin- young adult book review
by Lauren McLaughlin
Grades 9+ 272 pages Random House August 2009 Paperback    

ĎAs far as anyone at her high school knows, Jill McTeague is an average smart girl trying to get her dream date to ask her to the prom. But what no one knows, except for Jillís mom and dad, is that for the four days Jill is out of school each month, she is not Jill at all. She is Jack, a genuine boyócomplete with all the partsówho lives his four days of the cycle in the solitude of Jillís room.

But Jackís personality has been building over the years since the cycling began. He is growing less and less content with his confinement and his cycles are more frequent. Now Jillís question about prom isnít about who she will go with, but who will she be when the big night arrives?í
Cycler's unique story drew me in immediately. Iíve never read anything like it and havenít come across any similar stories, so I was desperate to read it. As soon as I saw it come up on Curled Up with a Good Bookís review list I knew I had to nab a copy.

Cycler is the story of Jill, a run-of-the-mill high school girl who just wants a simple life, in which her biggest concern is how to get her crush to ask her to the prom (though it is pretty high up on her list of concerns as it is). Unfortunately for Jill, she spends four days a month as Jack, a rebellious boy with sex on the brain who wants to escape from Jillís bedroom prison and live it up as any teenage boy should do.

At first it was easy to keep Jack under control and confined in the house, but now heís gaining strength and Jillís cycles are becoming more and more unpredictable - meaning Jack could appear at any time, in any place.

The writing alternates between Jill and Jackís points of view, and I think this is one of the bookís strengths. Jill is a likeable girl who shares the same worries as the rest of us (aside from the monthly morphing into a boy), and Jack is a different voice completely. His chapters are short to reflect his limited cycles, but itís easy to feel the anger in his voice as he talks about being locked up by his mother in Jillís room.

The pace of Cycler is fast, I enjoyed as I didnít find any elements of the story dragging and I didnít have to skip over any unnecessary passages. I really enjoyed this one, and Iím glad I have Recycler ready to read as it does end on a bit of a cliff-hanger Ė a good one, though!

Jack and Jill (the names are a nice touch) are strong characters, but the other characters let the novel down and make it a good story instead of a great one. Ramie is just a little too Ďquirky,í and elements of her personality are forced to try and make readers see how different and unique she is, like the whole Ďcrazy fashioní part of her personality.

Jillís mother is another character I couldnít quite work out. Thereís clear tension between her mother and father but itís never really explored, though itís mentioned throughout the book. Itís almost as if the writer was going to add a subplot about her parents but never quite got around to it. That easily could have been removed to make the story even more immediate.

Another thing Ė when Jill and Ramie concoct a plan to make her more attractive to the opposite sex (to lure her dream date into asking her to prom), it really did make me a little unhappy inside. Okay, fair enough, girls are scheming and we do scheme to get boys to like us every once in a while - but I really donít see how turning herself into a complete bitch was going to make Tommy like her. Maybe thatís the point McLaughlin was making, but itís a little cringeworthy.

Also, Jillís reaction to Tommy revealing that heís bisexual wanted to make me slap her. Hard. Grumbling aside, though, Cycler is a truly unique read that made me realize a little PMS isnít so bad in the scheme of things.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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