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Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

Game Changer (edition 2021)

by Neal Shusterman (Autor)

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I'm a great fan of Neal Shusterman's books, particularly the Unwind "dystology" and the Arc of the Scythe trilogy. Game Changer is a very different kind of book, and it took me a while to get into it.

Ashley, the main character, is a white high school senior and a lineman on his school's football team. When the story opens, he has a best friend who is black, Leo, a math tutor named Paul, a brother Hunter with whom he is not close, a quarterback Layton who is a quiet bully toward his girlfriend Katie, who Ashley wishes he could help, if not date. His father was a high school football player as well, but never had the chance to go to college and now runs an auto parts store.

When Ashley tackles an opposing team player during a game, the blow knocks him into another reality, where his life and everything he knows is slightly different; for example, stop lights are blue, not red. He begins to notice a skateboarder he hadn't seen before. This skateboarder, it turns out, is from another dimension. With each of the next few games, his reality is knocked off kilter a bit more, and the skateboarders, named Ed, begin to multiply. They exist to try and guide Ashley back to his original reality. The plot of the story is Shusterman's set up to say some things about racism, homosexuality, and sexism.

I didn't get into this story for a while. I was tempted to stop reading. I could see what Shusterman was up to. For example, in the next new reality, Leo is not his friend and neighbor. Ashley's tackle has altered reality so that segregation is still the law and Leo lives across town in a slum, while Ash's father is a retired pro footballer and the family is wealthy.

Shusterman has Ash experience what racism is really like, and then in turn, what life is like for LGBTQ people, and finally, women. I think the part of the story about Leo and racism, is one of the best, and clearly was influenced by the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

One quote really hit home for me:
"No matter how smart we think we are, we simply can't know all there is to know -- and if you spend all of your time thinking about those things, it will drive you crazy. Mostly, we're okay with the things we don't get...But not everyone's like that. There are people who are so threatened by things they don't understand that they feel a need to stomp them out. They have to crush them so that each thing killed is one less thing to tax their brain. It's the force behind the worst things that human beings are capable of. It's also the cause of the small injustices we comes across every single day."

He uses the example of left-handedness, which was considered a sign of the devil in the middle ages. Even 100 years ago, teachers tried to make lefties use their right hands. Why? Fear that something was wrong with people who were left-handed. The fear of people and things that are different from us causes many to label the people and things as evil. The same kind of fear haunts all of the wearers of MAGA hats, in my opinion.

There is real food for thought in this novel. ( )
  fromthecomfychair | May 28, 2021 |
I read this fast and like all Schusterman books I've read so far I loved it! It hit SO many hot topics but like usual turned them just slightly on their heads so that you looked at them differently! I was a bit disappointed in the amount of foul language but honestly it is reflective of the YA generation so it bothered me but it bothers me in real life too. I feel like even though every author writes with a slant it is honestly hard to tell if Shusterman is presenting a side to the controversial issues he writes about or purposely writing in a voice opposing to his on personal views to challenge himself. He definitely leaves room for you to decide for yourself how you feel and how you will act in the future which has always been Schusterman's strength. ( )
  LaraLovesToRead | Mar 12, 2021 |
Game Changer is thought-provoking as well as timely. It is a fascinating study of cause and effect through which Neal Shusterman points out the every-day and, therefore, hidden elements of racism, sexism, and other forms of hatred that permeate our society. It is as entertaining as it is educational, and I loved every bit of it.

In Game Changer, Mr. Shusterman starts slowly, focusing more on cause and effect than on the other aspects of his story. Each of Ash’s jumps ups the ante on not only the lessons Ash learns but also on the impact of those lessons and the long-term changes for Ash and the world. With one simple change in a sign’s color, the story takes off, and readers can do nothing but hold on for the speculative, insightful ride.

Through each change, Mr. Shusterman does a masterful job of forcing readers to experience the hatred behind racism and the roadblocks systemic racism throws up to prevent any person of color from escaping its net. But he doesn’t stop at racism. Through Ash, readers get the opportunity to experience sexism and rape culture as well as homophobia all from a first-person point of view. It is intimate and uncomfortable and ultimately eye-opening.

Through it all, Mr. Shusterman never preaches, especially when it would be so easy to do so. Rather, he lets Ash learn naturally, experiencing each form of hatred and oppression in the context of everyday, normal interactions among friends. Those interactions, and the lessons Ash learns, are so banal as to be laughable and yet provide some of the more chilling interactions Ash experiences, which is exactly the point.

The best part is that not all of Ash’s experiences are as obvious as a potentially abusive boyfriend or a world in which Jim Crow laws still exist. Throughout the story, Ash faces real-life scenarios in which staying silent is as dangerous as speaking out about intolerance. In fact, a good majority of what Ash discovers is that silence is its own form of acceptance with its own consequences. It is a powerful lesson that comes at a perfect time.

Game Changer is not just a great speculative story about multiverses. It also is an excellent exercise in empathy as well as a compelling thought experiment that exposes readers to major facets of the systemic prejudice that permeates our society. It is the type of novel I think everyone should read, not just for entertainment but also for the opportunity for self-improvement. ( )
  jmchshannon | Mar 10, 2021 |
Reading the author's acknowledgement at the end of this book solidified my first impression of the story. Double the amount of imagination one finds in most books were poured into this one. It starts out innocently enough with Ash hitting the opposing team's quarterback hard. Nothing unusual about that, until an icy sensation is followed by things suddenly being different. In the first world shift, stop signs are blue. Every time he lands a hit in a subsequent game, it creates a new world. It takes him a while to figure out what's happening, in part thanks to some very odd skateboarders. How he manages to pull his world into a semblance of normal (if there is such a state) makes for a gripping read. I particularly liked how certain other characters changed in each shift. The end result isn't pretty, but is extremely satisfying. In the world we currently occupy, this might not be as fantasy-like as we think. Thank you Neal for a terrific book. ( )
  sennebec | Mar 4, 2021 |
Booktopia Review: Ash is used to taking hits on the field for his high school football team – until he takes one that doesn’t just impact his body, but his whole reality. It starts with one small shift, but with every game, every hit, Ash finds himself pushed through a succession of universes almost-but-not-really like his own, until the small shifts in reality become significant shifts in Ash’s own identity.
As Ash experiences life from other perspectives, he starts to question the world he thought he knew, as well as the ones he finds himself catapulted into. For better or worse, the one thing Ash knows is that he’s got to find a way to put things back. A searing exploration of race, gender, sexuality and the nature of privilege.

My review: LOVED THIS, especially the first reality that Ash shifts to that has STOP signs and traffic lights with the BLUE colour and as Ash is programmed to see RED, he ignores these signs and nearly has a terrible car accident. From this point, each reality he shifts into gets stranger and stranger until finally he wakes up to discover that he is not a grid iron player injured on the side liners but actually a cheerleading girl who has been tackled and had a head knock. Great to see Shustermann back to his best. And a satisfying ending also....i.e. does he actually get back to his OWN reality? ( )
  nicsreads | Feb 26, 2021 |
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