Entertainment » Books


by Ellen Wernecke
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Sep 17, 2008

It's hard to be a teenager, but Jill, an only child in high school in suburban Massachusetts, has it worse than most: For four days a month she turns, werewolf-style, into a boy. And not just any boy: Jack is fearless, crude, and happens to have the hots for Jill's best friend Ramie.

Jill can't remember what happens when Jack is around, but he's dangerous enough that her parents agree to keep her locked up for each month's four days of Jack, whose silence is bought by supplies of porn and his favorite snacks. If Jack gets out, it would be social suicide for a girl who hopes to be taken to the prom this year... but what if Jack is a really important part of Jill?

Lauren McLaughlin's YA novel Cycler finds a fantastical angle to approach the subject of gender identity disorder with a character whose confusion, even given her unlikely story, is always relatable. Jack may differentiate himself each month by the physical growth of male genitalia, but he struggles to assert himself the other 26 days, until Jill can no longer lock him away completely.

(McLaughlin shows this by allowing Jack to narrate several chapters about his discomfort within Jill and what he feels is an inalienable right to make his presence known.) With these two engaging personalities on the opposite sides of their struggle, teens who are questioning their own identity may find themselves, as we do, listening to both sides.

Hardcover, $17.99, Random House Books for Young Readers

Ellen Wernecke’s work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and The Onion A.V. Club, and she comments on books regularly for WEBR’s "Talk of the Town with Parker Sunshine." A Wisconsin native, she now lives in New York City.

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