First, I thought that because this is a body-swap novel, it would be borrowing heavily on an already well-populated (at least, in the movies) trope. Body-swap movies are okay, but even the ones with a slightly-funny script (e.g. the one with Zac Efron, can’t remember what it’s called) tend to look a bit tired. This book, however, works on the basis that Ethan/Drew isn’t the only body-swapper, but one of a whole breed of body-swappers and that they’re all part of a big, secret society. It lifted the story into something a bit new and interesting.
Second, I thought that because Changers is the story of a boy who wakes up as a girl, it would be chock-full of boob gags, like some 300-page Inbetweeners episode. While I think The Inbetweeners is comedy gold, I didn’t know how well that brand of humour would work in a YA novel. Apparently, I was doing both the author and fourteen-year-old boys in general a great disservice, though. Obviously, Ethan does have an ‘Oh my god, I’ve got BOOBS!’ moment, but the author doesn’t over-egg the story with fourteen-year-old-boy-in-hot-girl’s-body jokes.
So the story revolves around Ethan, a fourteen year old boy who wakes up on the first day of high school to find he’s been transformed into a girl, Drew. Not only this, but his parents spring on him that he’s part of a secret breed of humans who transition their bodies every year for four years as adolescents in order to grow spiritually and hopefully save humankind and the world.
Drew obviously has some serious adjusting to do, not just in terms of finding out she is really part of a separate breed of humans, but also in the boy-to-girl transition. While this isn’t strictly a transgender novel (certainly not in the style of Lisa Williamson’s excellent The Art of Being Normal, anyway), it does definitely pick up on some transgender issues. Up until his first day of high school, Ethan was a boy - he had a male body and identified as male, too. Suddenly, he’s in a girl’s (Drew’s) body, but he still identifies as Ethan. He misses being in a boy’s body and now suddenly has to deal with a girl’s body. Gradually this changes until he identifies largely as Drew and the transition of his viewpoint was interesting and managed to have a lot of humour, too, although I think I can say with absolute certainty that if I, a cis woman, suddenly woke up with a penis it would take considerably longer than a few months to reconcile myself to this turn of events.
I did have some questions about the whole concept of Changers, which the book didn’t really answer (although maybe these questions will be answered in future books?) Changers seem to be really up on procreation and very heterosexual as a group, so I was wondering how homosexuality was viewed in this paradigm? If it turns out that they’re like No Gays Allowed, then I’ll not only be very upset, but also kind of confused as it doesn’t seem to fit with the whole Changers ethos. Also, I didn’t really understand why they would put a load of Changer teenagers in a room together (at the mixer) but also tell them that they’re not allowed to have romantic attachments with each other. Are they just trying to torture the poor kids, or something??
All in all though, this was a really good read and I’ll definitely be carrying on with the series.
I received a copy of Changers in return for an honest review. Many thanks to Little, Brown and Netgalley.