Jill McTeague is about to finish up her senior year in high school, a few months shy of prom. She and her best friend, Ramie, are working hard on a plan to get her a date. But any human knows that plans, no matter how well thought-out and theoretically smooth, inevitably hit some bumps.
Jill’s biggest problem is that four days out of every monthly cycle, she doesn’t just turn into a crazy girl on hormones — she turns into a guy. For four years she and her parents have struggled to deal with her huge secret, and while they’ve not been able to get rid of it, they’ve at least been able to keep it in a quiet little box. But now Jack is breaking out of the box. Just in time for prom and all of Jill’s plans, of course.
Lauren McLaughlin’s Cycler has a very clever premise. What a cool idea — a girl who turns into a guy every month! The book is kind of like the old Michael J. Fox movie “Teen Wolf.” He’s got a huge secret that no one can know, and it won’t be contained — it breaks out and wreaks havoc and humor. Jill and Jack do battle in their head every month; they have different methods of dealing with their shared space. Their (his? her?) parents are quirky to the extreme; the mom is a control freak who gets a little worrisome as the book progresses. The dad is a former high-powered lawyer who now lives in the basement and practices yoga on a constant basis.
With any book that has a pretty unique premise, there’s no telling where the author will take it. That’s good, generally speaking — but sometimes a little unsettling because it could go quite awry. In the case of Cycler, it doesn’t go exactly how I would like it to, in terms of certain themes, but given the setup, it would be difficult for it not to go some of the directions McLaughlin takes it (teen sexuality, identity… you get the picture). Unfortunately, she lays it on a bit thicker than I would like to see as a parent whose teen could potentially read this novel. That leads to …
Rated: High. There are no occasions of strong language. There are probably 10 uses of moderate and mild language, but also about the same number of vulgar references. The Jack character talks nonstop about pornography, masturbation and sex. He has sex with a female character, and the act is fairly explicit. Jill almost has sex with a male character, and that scene is fairly detailed. One character is bisexual.
As a parent, I cannot recommend this book for teen readers. The vulgarity and sexual references as well as a lot of talk about homosexuality or bisexuality is disturbing. Sadly, kids these days hear a fair amount of this from peers, but at least they can avoid reading more about it. Clever premise, but too explicit for its audience.