Published: August 26th 2008, Random House
Pages: 256 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, Recycler is the second and final title in the series
Acquired: Sent for review by Curled Up With a Good Book (additional copy received from Random House)
Publisher’s summary: As 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 Jill’s 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 boy—complete with all the parts—who lives his four days of the cycle in the solitude of Jill’s room.
But Jack’s 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 Jill’s question about prom isn’t about who she will go with, but who will she be when the big night arrives?
What I liked: The story of Cycler immediately drew me in due to the fact it’s so unique. I’ve never read anything like it and haven’t 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 Book’s 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, where 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 Jill’s bedroom prison and live it up as any teenage boy should be.
At first it was easy to keep Jack under control and confined in the house but now he’s gaining strength and Jill’s cycles are becoming more and more unpredictable, meaning Jack could appear at any time, in any place.
The writing alternates between Jill and Jack’s points of view and I think this is one of the book’s 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 it’s easy to feel the anger in his voice as he talks about being locked up by his mother in Jill’s room.
The pace of Cycler is fast, which is something I enjoyed as I didn’t find any elements of the story dragging and I didn’t skip over any unnecessary passages. I really enjoyed this one and I’m glad I have Recycler ready to read as it does end on a bit of a cliff hanger – a good one though!
What I didn’t like: Jack and Jill (the names were a nice touch, I thought) are strong characters, as I said before, but I think it’s the other characters that let the novel down and make it a good story instead of a great one. Ramie is just a little too ‘quirky’ and I felt like elements of her personality were forced to try and make readers see how different and unique she is. The whole ‘crazy fashion’ part of her personality just grated on me a little.
Jill’s mother was another character I couldn’t quite work out. There’s clear tension between her mother and father but it’s never really explored, though it’s mentioned throughout the book. It’s almost as if the writer was going to add a subplot about her parents but never quite got around to it so I think that easily could have been removed to make the story even more immediate.
Another thing – when Jill and Ramie concoct a plan to make her more attractive to the opposite sex (the lure her dream date into asking her to prom) it really did make 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 didn’t see how turning herself into a complete bitch was going to make Tommy like her. Maybe that’s the point McLaughlin was making but it was a little cringeworthy.
Oh, and one last thing – Jill’s reaction to Tommy revealing he’s bisexual wanted to make me bitch slap her. Hard.
Final thoughts: A truly unique read that made me realise a little PMS isn’t so bad.
Read if you liked...: Boy2Girl by Terence Blacker
Total: 13/20 (C)