Let's talk about teens. If there's one thing that teens love it's the possibility of sex. People who don't regularly read young adult fiction tend to forget how intent some YA books are to make teens' pants tight.
Lauren McLaughlin's debut teen hump-o-rama, Cycler, has been getting some really positive attention from both young readers and adults, none nicer than BoingBoing's frequent write-ups on the book and it's author. According to BoingBoing, the premise is very now:
Jill McTeague has a secret: every 28 days, at the start of her menstrual cycle, she...changes. Painful, graphically, her body transforms into an adolescent male form, and her mind is remade as Jack McTeague, an angry, horny teenaged boy who stays locked in Jill's room for four days until she comes back to reclaim her body and mind. Her stepfordwife mom is mortified by this, and bent on ensuring that none of their neighbors in their affluent Massachusetts suburb discover their family's dark secret, and her absentee father (moved into the basement years ago to practice meditation and yoga) is no help either.
My thoughts on the book and very minor spoilers after the jump.
For all the talk about the sexual politics the premise of Cycler courts, the book itself is actually pretty tentative. Jack and Jill (cute, right?) are basically two different people with two different sets of desires and sex organs, so it's not so much a book about coming to terms with your own bisexuality as it is about sharing a body with someone else. The boy that Jill is interested in is bi and she has to come to terms with that ("Is it gross? I guess not"), but outside of that McLaughlin doesn't do any overt drum-beating.
McLaughlin could've taken the hard path - which is to say the gay path - but all the girl-on-girl lust (between Jill and her best buddy and Rayanne Graff-clone, Ramie) and guy-on-guy possibilities (between Jack and Jill's man) are left in the subtext. Which feels like a bit of a cop-out.
But the text that is there is sex-sex-sexy. Putting sexual politics in the corner, the real heart of this book is teens' all-consuming desire to get it on. That leads Jill into some sub-Bridget Jones hijinx and Jack into some kind of creepy, stalker situations that, depending on your taste, can turn out pretty hot. It's easy to forgive what's not being addressed and grow a little nostalgic for your own high school love affairs while reading about these kids devoting all their energy to dry-humping through their clothes. The frankness of the sex is a welcome and healthy change from the cold, controlling abstinence of Twilight, where Bella insists she's never even thought about sex with someone before this vampire came along who loves her delicious girl-musk.
Other elements of the book, like Jill/Jack's bizarre relationship with their parents could take a while to unpack. Both mom and dad are pretty unhinged, but since McLaughlin doesn't seem to realize how psycho she made them, I'll just leave it at that. There's the awful made-up slang and teen-speak that pops up all over the place that could be happily excised from the proceedings.
But that's not important. What is important is that this is a sexy book for horny teens that wraps itself in some really forward-thinking politics. If the sexual confusion and acceptance of Cycler were the big YA sensation right now and not vampire boyfriends who sneak in your room to watch you sleep, the cultural landscape would look pretty different. In a good way.
Okay, has anyone else read this book? Agree/disagree? What about the sequel, (re)Cycler (get it, get it)? Is it any good?