No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, August 02, 2010

2010/58: Cycler -- Lauren McLaughlin

"I don't see people as male or female. I just see people ... Don't you think the world has expended enough energy keeping men and women separate, trying to convince us we're from Mars or Venus? For what? We're from Earth. Why does it have to matter so much?"
I have no answer, only a deep, almost physical aversion to the idea. (p. 116)

Jill McTeague is a perfectly normal seventeen-year-old American high school student, except for her unusual pre-menstrual syndrome: instead of the usual cramps and snarls, she turns into a boy (Jack) for four days before her period. Jack's developing an independent existence, possibly as a result of Plan B -- a series of meditations and visualisations (and possibly hormone treatments) developed by Jill's parents to affirm that Jill is "all girl".

Jill keeps her condition secret, even from her best friend Ramie. Jack doesn't get a say in the matter: he's confined to his room (Jill's room) for the brief interludes of his existence. But instead of suppressing the memories of his alternate self as Jill does, Jack's keen to get a glimpse of real life. He sees Jill's memories of Ramie. He sees Jill's crush on Tommy Knutson (who, rumour has it, is bisexual) and her plans for prom night. He's sick of being a dirty secret, locked away with a stack of porn DVDs and some peanut butter sandwiches. And he's got a crush on someone, too.

Cycler is immense fun: humorous, fast-paced and surprisingly deep when it comes to gender politics, sexuality and honesty. The two characters have distinctive voices and attitudes: the supporting cast, from Jill/Jack's ineffectual father to fashion-obsessed Ramie, are sketched in sharp detail.

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