Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

I love Shusterman’s books and was pretty excited by the premise of this one-alternate timelines! In this case a concussive wack on the head keeps altering his world slightly (or dramatically).  I didn’t love this as much as I thought I would (it’s no Scythe.) It seemed strange to me that many of the changes were really focused on racial inequality–but not all. It felt uneven. That said, how the world was different was fascinating and horrifying. I honestly did find it a little boring as he kept reflecting on his racial insensitivity. As for the “why is this happening” I thought it fell prey to the “I’m just describing something totally made up and weird so it can be whatever” syndrome, which I find unsatisfying and vague. (I guess I feel like nothing should be hard to describe in a completely made up scenario because you are literally describing it and making it up. If you can’t describe or explain your made up scenario then it seems like you just didn’t finishing making it up.)

But other than, I loved seeing the details of the world changing, especially his relationships with others, as well as the type of life he was leading.  It’s an interesting concept and he lets us know it’s already in the works for adaptation with Netflix (which seems like it will be Quantum Leap like.) I think I might just go reread the entire Scythe trilogy straight through for a really satisfying Shusterman fix.


The Toll by Neal Shusterman

This may have been my MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2019. Ever since I finished  Thunderhead two years ago I’ve been eager for this final book in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy to be published. [I see I didn’t review Scythe here, but did briefly mention it in my Top Ten of 2016.) Readers, it DID NOT DISAPPOINT. There are only two days left in 2019 and I knew midway through this that it would most certainly be ending up on my Top Ten of 2019 list (which I can’t wait to get started on today.)
So, where to begin.  First of all, this book is 625 pages long. When I picked it up from the library I was thrilled to see how long it was. And then I waited a whole week to read it (because, Christmas.) And it was wonderfully long and satisfying.

As I mentioned, it’s been two years since Thunderhead and while the conclusion of that book has stayed in mind most vividly, I wasn’t sure what else I remembered. No worries-I was easily brought up to speed. This novel is so beautifully constructed you almost want to go back and read it again now that you see how it all fits together. There are multiple sections, multiple points of view, and once again we are reading the Thunderhead’s direct commentary and thoughts. In addition periodic witness to another conversation-but you’re not sure who the participants are. And another repeated interstitial that I think I only just now realized exactly what it is. (so might go back and reread those parts.)

This conclusion is pretty epic. It covers a lot of ground, both in storyline and chronology. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, other than the story is continuing on. It explains exactly what has happened in the world since the dramatic conclusion of Thunderhead and continues, chronicling a rise to power of what I would call a megalomaniac despot. I think you’d have to be blind to not see the parallels to our current socio-political situation. It’s really an amazing work showing how civilizations rise and fall. Throughout the novel I really had no idea how this was going to conclude in a satisfactory manner. I will say –it did. 100% satisfied.

5 stars and one of the best of the year!


Unwind by Neal Shusterman

I think Neal Shusterman’s books are great and I feel like the seeds of Scythe can be found in here, in terms of concepts that he’s thinking about. What if…? What if….every disease could be fixed? What if….we could transplant anything and always had enough body parts to transplant?  And very pointedly, this book is tackling abortion wars. What if our country went to war over abortion? And then this book is showing the results of the compromise that was reached. In this future you cannot have an abortion, but you can “unwind” a child between the ages of 13 and 17. The child is sent to a harvest camp where they are unwound and all their body parts are put into other people. Therefore they are still “living.”  It’s CREEPY and HORRIFYING.
I loved how it jumped around from the points of view of the different kids. Fast paced. Thoughtful. The ending was superb.

The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman

I’ll say right off the bat that one thing I didn’t like about this book was his name-Schwa. But that said, this was a good, sort of weird story.  I read either in the summary or in a friend’s review, something that I thought really rang true–you start off thinking it’s all pretty funny-no one ever seems to see this kid and they run experiments to see what they can get away with, but then it ends up feeling pretty sad. Can you imagine always being overlooked? Even by your parents? As in, people literally don’t see you or remember you. (In the beginning of this I kept going back and forth trying to figure out if he was literally invisible and this was science fiction??)

We all felt invested in the story and it kept us hooked.



Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

I love me some Neal Shusterman but this one took me a while to get through. And not because it wasn’t good–because it was WAY TOO TERRIFYINGLY REAL.

The premise of this apocalyptic story is that in a region of California suddenly one day all the water is turned off–the Tap Out they end up calling it. This is told from the point of view of Alyssa and Garrett (Brother and sister), Jacqui (a tough street girl on her own), Henry (an obnoxious rich kid), and Kelton-the saving grace for everyone because he comes from a weird doomsday prepper family. Make fun of those families until you need them, right? Kelton goes to school with Alyssa and has had a crush on her, so is inclined to latch on to her and help her out. Kelton’s family is serious survivalist ready and his father has taught him that it takes just 3 days for people to become basically wild animals.  A statement which proves horribly true and if anything is actually a generous estimate.

Without water civility disappears and there are some fairly typical post apocalyptic responses-trashed stores, abandoned cars on highways, enclaves of helpful people, desperate people willing to do terrible things. If all that seems pretty typical for this type of story it is, but this story truly was terrifyingly real to me. It’s not decades in the future and it seems connected to current climate change catastrophes. I think one of the scariest things was the times it was mentioned that FEMA was unable to respond appropriately because they were busy with yet another hurricane. And that other parts of the country were probably holding bottled water drives, but really none of that mattered because people were about to kill each other over a cup of water and also die of dehydration.

I took a big break halfway through to read some other titles and then came back to this and quickly read the rest. While it was very unsettling, it was a good book and I did like it. That said, hurry up Mr. Shusterman and finish that Scythe trilogy! That’s what I really want to read!