A searing exploration of the world we live in – and the ones we don’t.
The synopsis for Game Changer had such an intriguing concept that we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. It reminded me of Quantum Leap, the tv show, where the main guy “leaps” into the lives (and bodies) of characters throughout different times in history.
Suitable for teens 14+, I read lots of reviews online before deciding that Joseph (almost 13) would be okay to read it. He’s at that age where he’s aging out of middle grade but he’s just a bit too young for most YA. He’s a strong reader (vocabulary and comprehension) and in theory we don’t mind him reading books for teens but why rush? Ultimately, we decided Game Changer would be okay for him. He agrees that the age suggestion should be 14+ as there are lots of curse words riddled throughout that some parents may not find suitable for younger readers.
Game Changer tells the story of a white privileged teen who keeps getting knocked on the head playing football. Every knock sends him bouncing into other universes where he experiences internal and external changes to his identity and the world around him. Through these different perspectives, his notion of the world is challenged and he experiences racism, homophobia and sexual violence. Socially relevant issues that he was ignorant to before the concussions.
There has been some controversy over whether the book is the typical “white saviour” trope but we didn’t see it that way at all. Game Changer is more of a social commentary than an attempt to problem solve all of the world’s ills. In fact, while we follow Ash on his journey, he begins to realise he’s not the hero he thought he was and everyone’s actions and inaction can contribute to the world we live in. Shusterman isn’t saying, go out and save everyone. Rather, we all have a personal and social responsibility to educate ourselves and acknowledge these injustices exist.
For many white readers, I can see this book opening their eyes on a deeper level because they can see themselves in Ash. Whether we want to admit it or not, it’s easier to identify with a character that looks and thinks like us. His journey, is their journey. His shift in perspective will hopefully also shift theirs.
But what does this mean for Black or other marginalised readers reading Game Changer?
For us personally, we were able to appreciate the book for what it was. An attempt to highlight injustices in the world and a story showing the journey of someone learning more about these injustices by experiencing it for themselves. It’s a story about empathy and seeing things from another person’s perspective which the world certainly needs more of.
I would have liked a selection of resources at the back of the book for readers who were inspired to take action whilst supporting existing organisations fighting for change.
An ambitious and magnetic novel from the New York Times bestselling Neal Shusterman, about a teenage American football player forced into a series of parallel lives.
Ash is used to taking hits on the field for his high school football team – until he takes one that doesn’t just impact his body, but his whole reality. It starts with one small shift, but with every game, every hit, Ash finds himself pushed through a succession of universes almost-but-not-really like his own, until the small shifts in reality become significant shifts in Ash’s own identity. As Ash experiences life from other perspectives, he starts to question the world he thought he knew, as well as the ones he finds himself catapulted into. For better or worse, the one thing Ash knows is that he’s got to find a way to put things back. A searing exploration of race, gender, sexuality and the nature of privilege.
Game Changer by Neal Shusterman was a very interesting book and it was a one of a kind novel with several different points of view. I loved how it was intriguing and imaginative. It was very ambitious in that it covered lots of topics and societal issues which got heavy at times but Shusterman made it easy to understand, without complicating it or making it boring.
Game Changer is an electrifying tale about Ash, a teenager who plays American football. The storyline follows him as he is knocked into a series of alternate realities that are similar to his own but with increasingly noticeable differences.
I would recommend this book to people because it is good for kids to learn about all communities in the modern day world. I would give it four stars as it is a very fascinating yet thrilling story.
By Joseph, age 12