"Honestly, the fact that 'Mom' (and, believe me, I use the term loosely) never came after me with a scalpel is a small miracle. That woman is nuts. You should have seen her reaction on the day I finally woke up. No, not the day Gail Girliepants grew a dick. I'm talking about the day the dick developed an autonomous sense of self."
Author: Lauren McLaughlin
Publisher: Random House
Plot Summary: Cycler begins with Jill's cycle, the excruciating time when she changes from female Jill to male Jack. Usually, she is asleep and misses the whole mess, but this time she feels every bone-grating change. Jill is now almost used to losing four days of her life each month to Jack, an inexplicable entity that is part of her that she blocks out through meditative yoga. Jack on the other hand, can delve into Jill's every action. Jill counts down the days until the prom and her new love interest Tommy, plotting with her best friend Ramie on how to attract his interest and catch herself a prom date. Jack, on the other hand, other than wanting new porn, is in love with Jill's friend Ramie and rails against his imprisonment within Jill's room. When Jill pretends to be an ice-queen to lure Tommy, Jack escapes and climbs the tree outside Ramie's window and they promptly make out, despite Jack being in touch with his 'feminine side.' While the pressure builds higher and higher between Jill and Tommy and Jack and Ramie, the prom looms ever closer and Jill's mother loses any sympathy she may have had for the boy hiding within her daughter.
Critical Evaluation: Cycler is written from two points of view with two narrators: Jill and Jack, two sides of the same physical coin who slowly blend together by the end of the novel, with Jill reading Jack's emotions, thoughts, and memories, and Jack having a similar experience. By having two alternating narrators who have such a strong relationship, let alone the physical body they share, is well done and the contrast catches the reader's attention even in the word use and sentence structure. That Jack's portion is written in bold text and Jill's is not is not necessary as they are easily distinguishable as separate entities. The symbolism between the two characters, regarding the male and female sides of every individual is intriguing, as it acts out a division between the sexes in a physical form. Not only are they both extremely individual, both Jack and Jill manifest the worst traits of the sexes even when delving into that of the opposite: Jack is a porn fiend and Jill can't get past Prom night and popularity contests. It is only near the end of the book when they start to bleed into one another and the next book in the series should be even more intriguing.
Reader's Annotation: Jill is a regular girl, or a girl who wishes she were normal, as for four days out of every month her body undergoes an excruciating transformation into Jack, a teenage boy who their parents trap at home for the duration. Between Jack requesting porn through written messages and leaving her stinking horribly after the transformation, Jill has had enough dealing with her masculine side.
Information About the Author: Lauren McLaughlin grew up in a small town in Massachusetts with an all-together too smooth life that resulted in no childhood traumas to draw upon for her writing. McLaughlin began her career in film, writing and producing for ten years and working her way up to line producer.
Cycler began as a screenplay and after completing her first novel, McLaughlin rewrote Cycler into a young adult novel. Read more about McLaughlin at her website.
Genre: Fiction; Gender-bender; Romance
Curriculum Ties N/A
- Jill is a normal teen girl who counts down the days until Senior Prom. Most of the month, at least. For four days of that month, she has to take off of school for her blood transfusions, when in reality, Jill becomes Jack, a teenage male version of herself with a raging libido. How can two people live in one body, let alone two of the opposite sex?
Reading Level: 16+
- While Jack's chapters are quite descriptive in his sexual urges, they are applicable and symbolic of the hormone-driven sexual drive of teenagers. This novel is no more explicit than popular movies or television and makes the more important points of sexuality, gender divides, and friendship.
- Cycler portrays both male and female thinking and the contrasting relationship between the two. Especially through Jack and Jill, how they feel about each other's existence and deal with coexisting in a single body.
Why This Book?: Staff recommendation
McLaughlin, L. (2008). Cycler. New York: Random House.