Neal Shusterman’s latest YA novel, Game Changer, published 09 February, 2021, was a quick read. Yet, I find it hard to review.
Why? For two opposing reasons. One, I quite liked it, because this story includes topics like racism, drug dealing, homophobia, abuse, sexism, misogyny, etc. Two, I didn’t like it, because this story includes topics like racism, drug dealing, homophobia, abuse, sexism, misogyny, etc. from a privileged white male perspective.
Ash is 17 years old. While playing football he suffers a concussion, a concussion that throws him into an alternative universe. From then on, every time he hits his head hard he’s thrown into another alternate universe. The first version of reality Ash encounters isn’t so much different from what we all know, only that stop signs are no longer red but blue. The next alternate universe though makes Ash a very privileged rich kid selling drugs. Yet the next universe makes racial segregation legal. Then in the next… you get the idea.
Our white male hero has to save the universe from destruction. He’s explaining (*cough* mansplaining *cough*) all that goes wrong in today’s society from his personal experience, his walking a mile in his friends’ shoes, so to say. Ash, at last, notices the flaws of his initial universe and wants the ever increasingly flawed alternative universes to return to what he used to be used to. He stands up to the bad things, becomes a champion of people of colour, queer people and women. He’s the white male hero/saviour. He’s special.
As much as I liked seeing current societal problems being extrapolated in alternate universes, I wish the main character had had any other flaw than being named Ashley, after a fictional male character in a racist film.