Title: Game Changer
Author: Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Genre: Teen/young adult fiction, Science fiction
Book format: Pre-publication didital proof
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Description:   All it takes is one hit on the football field, and suddenly Ash’s life doesn’t look quite the way he remembers it.
Impossible though it seems, he’s been hit into another dimension–and keeps on bouncing through worlds that are almost-but-not-really his own.
The changes start small, but they quickly spiral out of control as Ash slides into universes where he has everything he’s ever wanted, universes where society is stuck in the past…universes where he finds himself looking at life through entirely different eyes.
And if he isn’t careful, the world he’s learning to see more clearly could blink out of existence…
This high-concept novel from the National Book Award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author of the Arc of a Scythe series tackles the most urgent themes of our time, making this a must-buy for readers who are starting to ask big questions about their own role in the universe.

*Free copy provided by the publisher for review…

Review:  Wow, what an exciting, interesting and compelling story! Seventeen year old Ash Bowman is a linebacker for his school’s football team. One day he ends up getting hit too hard and feels something strange happen. After the game things seem normal until he’s driving home and misses a stop sign…a blue stop sign. Ash starts to notice that things aren’t quite the same, and soon learns that he’s somehow travelled to an alternate reality. But how did he end up there and can he find his way back to the world he came from, or will things only get worse?

I have really enjoyed reading this book, in fact I was so engrossed in the story I read almost the entire book in one day, real life being the only thing that made me have to put the book down! As Ash enters an alternate version of our world, the changes he sees seem insignificant at first and his mind reassures him that things are normal, but soon he finds himself travelling to very different worlds, where things there just get stranger and stranger and where some very serious issues end up affecting his life and that of his friends. I’ve always loved science fiction stories that focus on alternate dimensions or realities so when I was offered the chance to read this I was so excited and knew that I’d love it!

Ash’s adventure through different dimensions seems simple at first with only minor changes to the world, but soon the worlds he ends up in are very different from the others and some very serious societal issues we face in our world today are brought up and in a way discussed through Ash’s narrative and perspective on things. The story is told from Ash’s point of view in the first person narrative and while Ash travels and experiences different versions of the world and himself, he ends up thinking a lot and philosophising on things like racism and the wider world. I don’t want to spoil anything by saying exacly what happens but each new world brings with it more and more problems like racism and homophobia and these issues are given a lot of thought through Ash’s voice. Although at first this book seems like a simple sci-fi story of travelling to different worlds it soon becomes a sort of commentary on things we experience in our world today. Whether of not you’ll like this though depends on the individual reading it. For me, although it was overall a good paced story, I did feel that a few times this philosophising and commentary on things did slow down the pacing of the story a little and were occassionally overly discussed to the point where I felt like saying ‘I get it’, wanting the story to move on.

There are a few references in the story to things that have happened in our recent world like certain protests and even covid gets a mention (which to be honest I didn’t personally like as I’m trying to get away from reading about anything covid-related), but these events mentioned seem to set the story a little ahead into our future, at a time when covid at least doesn’t seem to really be an issue anymore. The different worlds that Ash experiences are all very interesting and I have to admit to enjoying a few of the moments when he suddenly shifts to a new reality. There were a few moments where the twists genuinely shocked or made me smile. I never saw the twists coming in the story or in the worlds that Ash was going to be in next and I love how different they all were and the different issues that were brought up with each new reality.

The science fiction part of the story isn’t too heavy to follow, but I did like the descriptions of what was happening to the world and the place called Elsewhere. I also loved the Edwards and all the different names conjured up for them made me laugh. And although the commentary on difficult topics like the racism, etc slowed down the pacing a bit, which has been mentioned by a few reviewers, it wasn’t too big a deal for me and I did enjoy a lot of what Ash was thinking about and the wider issues he encountered around racism, sexism, etc.

At the start of the book (at least in the pre-publication digital proof I was given) the author himself speaks about how this book was important for him to write and how it also sacred him a bit to write it. The issues discussed are certainly important in today’s world, now more than ever, and by seeing things play out in fiction I really did enjoy what was discussed and the way it made you think about it even after reading. There is a bit of swearing in the book with use of the f word as well as milder. There are also descriptions of things that happen which can be upsetting to some such as abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia, although to me these felt well handled and I like the way that the story went.

There’s a good conclusion with such dramatic things happening right through to the last chapter. Even the final chapter, although it’s one I enjoyed, did shock me a couple of times and left the story in a good way. I liked what happened to most of the characters though I felt sad about one thing that was concluded. This really was a brilliant book and a very compelling read from start to finish, even with all the societal commentary. On the surface this feels like a fun science fiction story focusing on the alternate dimensions that we could all be living in and all the fun that goes along with that. But this book also resonates deeper and I did like the messages and questions the book posed about our wider world and society.

I feel a little conficted because, while at times I felt like the author really over-mentioned some things slowing down the pacing, however these issues are at the core of our society today, and while some in the world may not experience the problems facing some of the characters, others obviously and painfully do. This book feels like an important one to read and one which will probably be discussed a lot in the future. It’s certainly a great science fiction story which kept me engrossed and is full of twists and turns with an ending that’s good. But unlike previous books I’ver read by the author (the Scythe series and Dry) this book feels more more philisophical and slower than some of Shusterman’s work. Overall though, despite the pacing that only partly affected the story, I would still really recommend this book! It’s a brilliant story in general and because of what it discusses, I think it makes for important reading too.

Game Changer is published on 11th February 2021!

What do you think of this book?  Do you like books that comment on societal issues today?  What about alternate words/realities?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂