Book Reviews

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman – Book Review

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman book cover

Warning – possible spoilers! (Tiny ones, though, and I’ll try to avoid even those; I swear I’ll give my best not to ruin it for you… :-))

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman – Book Details

TITLE – Game Changer

AUTHOR – Neal Shusterman

GENREyoung adult, science fiction

YEAR PUBLISHED – 2021

PAGE COUNT – 400

MY RATING – 2.5 of 5

RATED ON GOODREADS – 3.68 of 5

Initial Thoughts

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman was on my 20 most anticipated 2021 books list.

It was really a no brainer for me. I love science fiction. Specifically, I love not science heavy science fiction, as well as contemporaries, thrillers and romances with SF twists.

I also knew I’d want to read whatever the author of Scythe comes up with next. So I preordered Game Changer as soon as I heard it was coming out.

But, a few weeks ago the book was finally published and all the mixed reviews started to appear. I read a few and they sounded like exactly what might bother me in a book. Honestly – if I haven’t preordered it, I probably wouldn’t pick it up… ever.

But I did get my copy and – WTH. My taste doesn’t always align with the opinion of the majority. So I decided to give it a chance anyway.

Here’s how it went…

What It Is About

“Language secretly pushes and prods every one of us in hundreds of directions we don’t see, until the only way to be careful with your words is to never speak.”

Ash is a 17-year-old football player. During a game he gets hit hard and after that the things start to get weirder and weirder. At first it’s the small things that are off, but every next time he gets hit, his world changes beyond comprehension or control.

Soon Ash learns that he is actually being hit into other dimensions. Each new dimension provides new perspective on the world Ash thought he knew and understood.

Now it is on him to try and find a world with enough balance in it so that the rest of the universe doesn’t feel obliged to wipe it out…

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman – My Review

“Because if all of existence was something a human mind could comprehend, what a sad, pathetic universe this would be.”

I honestly don’t know how I feel about this book. There was a huge gap between what the author wanted to say and what the book actually ended up achieving.

It didn’t seem substantial enough. The things it tried to teach us felt more like a nightmare, and when you wake up, you think – well, thank God that was just a dream. So you shake it off, move on and it doesn’t stick with you.

“You might think your own personal apple has fallen far from the tree, but that tree has roots you don’t see until you trip over them.”

I felt like the author was really pushing to say something important, but he couldn’t quite clear his thoughts, so it all came out a bit incoherent. He tried to talk about some very serious issues that should hit close to home, but everything was exaggerated and therefore didn’t seem genuine.

The protagonist is this white guy who pretty much throughout the whole book goes around thinking – man I was ignorant. I was so ignorant. Thank God now I know better.

But the thing is – though we were told he was ignorant, we never actually got to see it properly. I wish Shusterman showed us at least one example of what exactly Ash was ignorant about and how he should have done it differently in his original world, apart from being more aware. There was not one specific thing that he could have done better in his original universe, that he got to learn about while traveling through all these other AUs. I didn’t think that part was covered well at all.

“He lingered there, not coming in, not leaving. The threshold is a funny place. The ultimate spot of noncommittal. And yet they say it’s one of the best places to be in an earthquake. Go figure.”

There were a lot of great quotes you could take from this book. And maybe that was the main problem. Instead of telling us all those wise things, I guess Shusterman should have just picked one to show us.

Because by the end of the book, I didn’t feel like Ash really learned all that much. Though many of the problematic things he got to experience first-hand, it felt more as if he were watching a movie showing all the horrible things that are not all that likely to happen, but potentially could, given a chance.

“I guess my own spark of enlightenment is an acceptance of all the things I’ll never know.”

As for the SF part – boy, was that just a pile of hot mess.

I felt like the author just got lazy to come up with something unique and authentic. Let’s face it – trying to play with multiple dimensions can be pretty challenging. But hey – luckily a bath can help, and let’s also simplify dimensions to the emoji form, for easier understanding.

There were so many weird instances, I’m not gonna even try to discuss them all here. Although, again, there were meaningful ideas buried under all the unnecessary, weird stuff.

“Isn’t it strange how we take for granted that the universe works? … We think miracles … are few and far between, but what if the true miracles are the millions of near misses we experience every day?”

I gave this book 2.5 stars because, despite all the issues, I went through it pretty quickly and every time I put it down I felt compelled to pick it up again. As much as I was rolling my eyes, I also wanted to know what’s gonna happen next.

There was just something about this book that felt good, something that worked for me, but for the life of me I cannot tell what that something was. I guess it was a bit like watching a movie from the 90s. You get that what you’re watching is not state of the art. But it feels good and a bit nostalgic and you end up having a better time than you expected.

I love sci-fi. And I love books that discuss important, meaningful topics. But this was a weird mix of the two that didn’t work for me. It kind of fell flat on both accounts.

I still love Neal Shusterman. I am looking forward to reading his future works and a few of the old ones I didn’t get to yet. Just this one book – I honestly have no idea who might be the right audience for it. So even if I wanted to recommend it, I wouldn’t know who I should recommend it to.

My Signature