Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

 Game Changer by Neal Shusterman, HarperCollins, 9780061998676, 2021

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: ARC

Genre: Science fiction/sports

What did you like about the book?  I really enjoyed reading this unique SF/sports hybrid, mercifully lacking a cliffhanger ending. Ash is a linebacker on his high school football team. He loves the game, but is resigned to his support position and realizes that his talent is not the kind that wins accolades or scholarships. His best friend Leo, Black and a wide receiver, is the one destined for USC or Stanford. But a drive during the game hits Ash so hard that he literally disrupts the space-time continuum and pushes his whole world into a different direction. Is it a concussion or an actual cosmic catastrophe? At first it’s small things, like stop signs being blue instead of red. Another game, another shift and now he’s attending a school that’s never heard of Brown vs. the Board of Education. Paralleling the big changes are personal ones: Ash’s family goes from working class to crazy rich, his relationship with his brother deepens, he gets caught up in drug dealing. Even more elemental, he sits up after a hard hit to discover he’s gay or even, gulp, a girl. All of this change gives Shusterman lots of moral quandaries to puzzle over. Is it the right thing to challenge segregation? To pull someone else out of the closet? To intervene in an abusive relationship? To add to the fun, there’s a crew of multi-dimensional beings that show up on skateboards to right the course of Earth’s history before it’s too late. I liked the combination of football and science fiction and the emphasis on male friendship.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No, although I might have cut off one of the transitions just to speed things up a bit.

To whom would you recommend this book?  A good read for students grades 8 and up looking for something a bit different in a sports story. There is some discussion of drug dealing, teen sex and partner abuse, so not a middle grade option. Students who enjoyed Rash by Pete Hautman or Hooper by Geoff Herbach would be good candidates for this fast read. Schusterman has a lot of fans for his Arc of a Scythe series, so they may also be interested in this one-off.

Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? YA, sports or SF, your choice. 

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: February 6, 2021

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