Ok, I know I just said in my last review that I tend to give four and five stars, but not lower. Well, here’s a low one for you blog readers out there. There was nothing objectively wrong with the writing, I want to say that, at least. The premise was also relatively interesting. Unfortunately, the way it was handled…well, I found it pretty offensive.
A quick summary, from my point of view: Cycler is about this girl, Jill, who turns into a boy every month for the four days preceding her period. Hence the title, I guess. Anyway, during those four days, she stays inside the house in order to keep the transformation a secret, and everyone outside her family thinks that she gets monthly blood transfusions for some unspecified disease. So, this idea is okay so far. Except that the four-day-male part of her has developed his own personality–Jack. The Jack-and-Jill thing should have been my first warning, perhaps, but I’m an amenable reader, so whatever. I took it in stride.
My main problem with this book is the strenuous gender differentiation. Jill does specific meditation to banish Jack from her consciousness when she wakes up after those four days, repeating her mantra: “I am all girl.” She’s obsessed with boys and the prom, she concocts an asinine and gender stereotyped plan to woo the boy of her dreams, and she condescends to fat girls and bad dressers. Jack, on the other hand, is obsessed with masturbation, porn, and Jill’s best friend, whose picture he keeps under the pillow.
Then, of course, we reach the drama of the story. Jill’s crush turns out to be bisexual–which makes Jill feel ill, but she’s determined to get over it in order to have him. Jack sneaks out to spend a night making out with Jill’s best friend, and when Jill tattles on him, he gets locked up during the next cycle with bars on the windows and security systems on the door. Soon Jill is so confused by Jack’s feelings that she kisses her best friend, is disgusted, and avoids both the friend and the crush like the plague. Jack comes again on prom night, and manages to escape his prison-like conditions and his insane mother through some ridiculous trickery of his father…..it was so bizarre. Anyway, he goes to the prom, dances with the best friend, changes back to Jill….and she and the best friend and the crush ride off into the sunset, not in any kind of good way.
The treatment of gender, the treatment of non-hetero sexualities, the treatment of sex, and the ridiculous caricature of evil parents ruined what might have been an interesting novel, and though I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, Ms. Mclaughlin, and think that you might have been trying to make some sort of comment about all of that by the end, it wasn’t nearly strong enough to overcome my general disgust. If it kept going, if it explored the relationships that Jill, Jack, the friend and the crush could have after escaping the evil mother, if the completely henpecked father could have risen up and supported both his children, the whole thing might have been redeemed. Maybe. If it was really great. But as it is…well, it was just a book embracing the most embarassing and distressing gender stereotypes out there. One star.
Respectfully (because “Love” sounds cheeky after a negative review),