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Cycler (2007)

by Lauren McLaughlin

Series: Cycler (1)

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19222121,609 (3.46)8
Seventeen-year-old Jill is a fairly normal high school senior whose focus is on getting a certain boy to ask her to prom, but four days a month she transforms into surly Jack who decides it is time he had his own life and a chance with the girl he wants.
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» See also 8 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Wow, I could hardly wait for this book to be over. I had first read it in 2009 and had really liked it. I was a very different person back then, and society allowed a lot of stuff that they don't now. Eleven years after I first read the book, I was dismayed to discover that it was sexist towards both men and women, didn't mention anyone outside the binary, was incredibly homophobic and biphobic, was incredibly ableist and the author had never met anyone tall in her -life.-

Everyone in this book is a caricature. The mom is incredibly controlling and hates her husband, but won't initiate divorce. She seems to strongly dislike all men, which also explains why she has no interest in helping her daughter have a healthier relationship to Jack somehow. The dad has been exiled to the basement and fits a variety of hippie stereotypes, but he used to be a corporate lawyer. His wife hates him for this and other reasons, since she put him through law school. The dad is pointless as a character. He could have been cut entirely and nothing important would have changed. Jill's male love interest is so bland that I forgot his name. His only purpose was to establish that Jill was omg totes not attracted to icky Raimey leave her alone omg u guise. And the author gets to check a box saying there's a queer character in it. Jill's love interest has no character beyond enjoying skiing, needing math help, and being bisexual. He could have been replaced by a sexy lamp post and the story could continue. There was no real relationship between him and Jill.

And then there's Raimey. She is stated to be Jill's best friend. She's clearly supposed to be this free-spirited, ahead of the game fashionista who is relaxed around boys, and a supportive best friend. Raimey, the object of both Jack and Jill's sexual attraction, dresses strangely and is stated to be nearly six feet tall and weigh less than a hundred and twenty pounds. That is underweight, and her doctor would be asking her about eating disorders. The first thing that popped up in google about it was a pro-anorexia forum. No health issue is mentioned in the book that causes this IRL, such as a metabolic one. And of course, the author gives Raimey D cup breasts. On an underweight teenager. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it's -incredibly- rare. Jill fairly drools over Rainey's breasts. Due to the homophobia the book is drenched in, this wasn't the author's intent, but it -is- what she wrote. At one point in the book, Rainey distorts a corset dress of Jill's. by wearing it, due to their height and bust differences. She's described as stuffing her breasts into a dress fit for Jill. She would not be able to breathe. The outfit would likely tear irreparably if she were able to fit into it. She would be dizzy and lightheaded, not rushing out the door. I don't know how Raimey feels about Jill herself since the book is mostly from Jill's POV and Jill is always drooling over her. Jill insists that she's also interested in a guy at school. When she reacts negatively to him coming out as bisexual, I instantly understood Jill to have massive confusion over and contempt for her own sexuality. She's always going on about how hot and "doable" Raimey is, but insists it's the guys at school who say it. Such was repetitive, annoying, and had no substance. I'd feel sorry for her if she weren't so annoying. "If You Could Be Mine" by Sara Farizan has the trope as well of being in love with and sexually attracted to your best friend, and it's done much, much better.

Jack has no such hesitation over his own sexuality or expressing it. He engages in stalking Raimey and is a voyeur towards her, actually falling off her roof with his hand down his pants. That is Jack's only personality, couched in deep bitterness at his lot in life: he's trapped in a teen girl's body every day except four days out of each month, and the teen girl and her family hate him. No one else knows he exists. The book opens with an attempt at explaining this, but it reads like a teenage girl giving birth and referring to male anatomy using words appropriate for five-year-olds. The girl, Jill, is actually shapeshifting into a boy, Jack, which she does for four days before she gets her period every month. "Blood and Chocolate" by Annette Curtis Klause describes shapeshifting more realistically and vividly, but that is a book about wolf-shifters. I seriously wonder if the author of this book, Lauren McLaughlin, got the premise from the Season 4 Episode "Phases." In it, Willow attempts to comfort her boyfriend, Oz about his newfound werewolf status by saying, "It's okay. Three days out of the month, I'm not much fun to be around either." That's awful specific, Zev, you the reader might be understandably thinking. But the book is full of Buffy-speak, and jokes that would be considered funny at Sunnydale High. BTVS originated the dialogue. Here, it's jarring and tries too hard.

The plot of this novel is not "What happens if Jack is discovered as part of Jill?" No, this is "ZOMG clothes prom ugh Jack prom planning for prom." What a waste of opportunity, considering what the premise supposedly was. I expected a book with such premise to be able to use medical terms for genitals, and to treat PMS symptoms matter-of-factly, which it did not. Back to Jack and Rainey briefly. Rainey has no regard for her safety. She doesn't know who Jack is, and lets him itno her room because he's hot. They have never met before. She lets a stranger in after he taps at her window, and she kisses him and it progresses. EW. This in no way pardons Jack's crimes. It's more of, "both of you suck." As the page count increased, so did the homophobia. The whole book was deeply unpleasant. The ending was a clear setup for a sequel in an annoying way.. ( )
  iszevthere | Jul 6, 2022 |
This was an okay book. The premise is pretty unbelievable but it's interesting. Basically Jill is a girl most of the time but for four days a month she literally and physically turns into a boy named Jack.

The premise is pretty far-fetched. There is mention of Jill going to tons of doctors to figure this out without an results; I am surprised that everyone would just leave her alone with such an outstanding condition. I think Jill’s family’s response (which is to suppress Jack) is a strange one that I had trouble understanding.

The story would have been much more interesting if it had focused on Jill/Jack figuring out why this happens to them. Instead the story focuses on Jill’s efforts to get a boy at school to ask her to the prom and Jack’s efforts to become more independent and seek out a girl he has a crush on.

There are a lot of GLBT dynamics to the story. For example Jill and Jack are completely straight but they obviously both have to deal with some complex boy/girl identity issues. Jill’s boyfriend ends up being bisexual; which actually didn’t have a ton of impact to the story other than Jill’s strange reaction to the information.

The story pretty much just stops as the book is getting interesting. I was frustrated that, just as things come to a head and Jack/Jill are actually going to have to start actually dealing with their coexistence in an active way, the book just ends. Very disappointing; it looks like there is a sequel to this book called Re(Cycler) that might address some of the unfinished issues, but given how this book ended I won’t be reading the second one.

The book itself flows well and has some fun snappy dialogue. Some of the slang included throughout gets a bit old. McLaughlin has her teens using the term “mal” and “deeply” to describe a lot of things; I am not sure if this was an effort to sound hip and teenish...but it mainly is just annoying.

Overall an okay book with an interesting, if far-fetched, premise. I felt like the story focused on the wrong things and then once it finally started to focusing on the “right” and more interesting topics the book just ended with absolutely no resolution...very frustrating. I don’t plan on reading the sequel. ( )
1 vote krau0098 | Nov 3, 2016 |
Every month for 4 days teenager Jill turns into Jack. Sounds crazy right? I had high expectations for this book with such a unique concept, however it kind of just went on a bit. Jill wants a guy to ask her to the prom and goes out of her way to try and get him. However she doesn't know who she will be when prom night arrives. Other than that, chuck in some annoying teenagers talking about school and fashion, wierd parents and a bi student and that's it.
I read it in 2 days. It was OK. I'm not a young adult so this may be a great book for the target audience. ( )
1 vote Nataliec7 | Jan 13, 2016 |
This one may have been the longest on my "to-read" list. All I knew was that it was about a girl who turns into a boy for five days every menstrual cycle. I was expecting a different story, one about girls versus boys. Differences between masculine and feminine. Today's societal issues. I thought it was going to offer some enlightenment and insight into how we treat each other based on gender. But this is more like a comic novel.

The girl is obsessed with prom. Right off the bat, I was disappointed. How shallow can you get, starting with a girl who has this gift that provides incredible perspective on a giant issue in high school. And all she cares about is the most asinine thing secondary education has to offer. I really couldn't tell you one more thing she's interested in besides prom.

And when she's a boy, they trap him/her in his/her room for five days, where he has his own fridge and porn. There is no plot in this story until halfway through, when the boy decides he's in love with his/her girl-ego's buxom best friend. Not to mention the unresolved storylines, like her family's dynamic with a mom and dad who are living separate lives in the same house. And that she doesn't tell her two best friends her secret until the very last line. Dude! That is not where you end your novel, that's where you end your first act!

There's a fantastic commentary locked in this story concept and it's wasted on petty YA junk like making plans for how to flirt with boys and shallow stereotypes and the importance of popularity. It focuses on what some Hollywood executive thinks are problems. ( )
  theWallflower | Apr 22, 2014 |
YA,gender issues,Amazon received
  romsfuulynn | Apr 28, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
This is a book that the kids in your life really need to read, a gender-bending piece of speculative fiction aimed at young people that manages to say novel, useful, and challenging things about gender and sexuality without ever descending into squicky fluid-exchange or soapy romance.
added by lampbane | editBoing Boing, Cory Doctorow (Aug 26, 2008)
 

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Cycler (1)
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For Carol and Tom McLaughlin
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I am all girl.
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Let me tell you something about Jill. The girl's life is a friggin' fairy tale.
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Seventeen-year-old Jill is a fairly normal high school senior whose focus is on getting a certain boy to ask her to prom, but four days a month she transforms into surly Jack who decides it is time he had his own life and a chance with the girl he wants.

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