cover image Game Changer

Game Changer

Neal Shusterman. Quill Tree, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-199867-6

A straight, white, cisgender teen is confronted with his own privilege via iterative realities in Printz Honoree Shusterman’s (Scythe) ambitious speculative novel. In the first game of his senior year, defensive tackle Ash Bowman feels a strange sensation while sacking the opposing team’s quarterback. That night, he discovers that stop signs are now blue instead of red, and no one remembers otherwise. The next time it happens, Ash enters a wealthy existence where his family swaps tract housing for a gated community, and a third tackle has him attending an all-white high school in a world where segregation never ended. As each hit spins Ash further from the reality he knows, he finds himself grappling with realities of class, gender, race, and sexuality. Some gratifyingly complex character relationships help balance the action, but centering the privileged protagonist’s limited perspective means that characters with more intersectionally layered identities come off as secondary. Shusterman’s tackling of so many nuanced subjects fails to focus sufficiently on each, resulting in a thought-provoking work that only skims the surface. Ages 14–up. (Feb.)