REVIEW: Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

REVIEW: Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

First things first I’d like to say a huge thank you to Walker Books, who accepted my request to read Game Changer via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I have been so excited about reading a new Neal Shusterman novel. Having read and loved Dry and the entire Arc of the Scythe series, I thought that I might have discovered a new favourite author. I featured Game Changer in my most anticipated 2021 releases video, and I thought it was going to be an easy 5 star read to start off 2021 right.

Unfortunately, Game Changer took those hopes and dashed them to pieces.

Game Changer tells the story of a boy called Ash, who hits his head badly during a football game. He feels cold and uncomfortable, and wonders if it might be a concussion until he’s driving home and runs a blue light.

Yep, a blue light.

Ash realises that the world around him has changed, but he has no idea why. The only thing he can think to do is make sure to hit his head again during his next game in the hope that things might go back to normal. Unfortunately Ash finds himself quickly shifting further and further away from the life he’s used to.

I think the concept of Game Changer is utterly brilliant. The idea that the entire world could change due to such a small, seemingly inconsequential event makes you reconsider the impact that your actions may have. It could have had a positive impact on the behaviour of a lot of people, if it wasn’t trying to do quite as much.

Neal Shusterman uses Game Changer to criticise a lot of different injustices found across the world. The class divide, the racial divide, the gender divide – all of these and more are critiqued and torn apart throughout the course of Ash’s story.

Unfortunately, rather than educational and eye-opening, it comes across as extremely preachy. Ash is a white kid who struggles to listen to his best friend Leo, who is Black, when they talk about racist issues, yet we’re supposed to believe that Ash’s attitude changes remarkably quickly. One minute he’s contradicting Leo’s lived experiences, but a few chapters later he’s suddenly converted into a social justice warrior fighting the good fight for anyone who could be described as underprivileged.

I sincerely appreciate what Neal Shusterman was trying to do, but it doesn’t work. Stuffing this many important conversations into such a small book (while also introducing some pretty mind-boggling scientific concepts) is overwhelming, and sadly I didn’t enjoy Game Changer anywhere near as much as I was expecting to.

That being said, Neal Shusterman’s writing is still great. The conversational tone that Ash takes throughout makes him feel like a friend rather than like a character.

I cared about a lot of the background characters, even the ones that we don’t spend a lot of time with, because Shusterman has a skill when it comes to fleshing out characters realistically with only a brief description. This is something I noticed throughout the Arc of the Scythe – sometimes characters are only around for a chapter or two, but they stick in your mind remarkably – and it’s something Shusterman manages again in Game Changer.

I would still recommend picking up Game Changer – the early reviews seem to be extremely divisive, so you’re either going to love or hate this book – but unfortunately it just didn’t do it for me.

I hope you enjoyed this review, even though it’s not what I expected to be saying about this novel!

See you tomorrow with my review of another anticipated 2021 release,