Game Changer by Tim Bowler was offered to me to review by Amazon Vine in exchange for my honest opinion. I decided to take it on the grounds that the Daily Telegraph recently ran an article about this summer’s top Teen/YA reads, and this book featured. I would link you to the article in question except that the Telegraph have a partial pay wall which makes linking to them really beyond my minuscule technological capabilities.
You’ll just have to take my word for it.
This is unquestionably for the teen market. It has a fair amount of violence and some unpleasant representation of gang culture. I’d recommend it to children aged 13 and up. It is more of a book for boys than girls, although there are some fabulous and well drawn female characters both good and bad in the book that mean things are not entirely male oriented.
Mikey is our narrator. His nickname is Mole, because he is agoraphobic, and particularly bothered by the sun. His favourite place to spend time is curled up in the bottom of his wardrobe, reading classic novels in the gloom. The only person who seems able to handle/understand him is his younger sister Meggie. Meggie knows what to do in every circumstance, and if it weren’t for Meggie, Mikey would be utterly unable to function.
It is not that Mikey’s parents are clueless or mean, they have a counsellor for Mikey, but Mikey doesn’t trust or like his counsellor, and is unable to explain to his parents what is going on. Things are in a state of impasse, until one day, Meggie persuades Mikey to push the edges of his world a little, with disastrous consequences for everyone involved.
Mikey is running scared, and there is literally nowhere to hide.
The book is more of a novella, written in short, sharp chapters that make it punchy and tense and a real adrenaline ride. You have to keep on reading just another chapter to find out what is going to happen, and really, you have no idea up to the last minute how things are going to turn out. Tense is not really an adequate description here.
I can’t say I enjoyed it, although I couldn’t put it down and finished it in one intense sitting. It reminded me in some ways of S. E. Hinton’s classics, Rumblefish and The Outsiders, books which I revisited time and time again in my teens and which were along similar lines in terms of content. I think, if I were a teen now, I might feel the same about this book.
The writing is quite sparse and there isn’t much to go on in terms of character development for anyone except Mikey. This is to be expected as it is Mikey’s narrow, frightened vision we experience through his narration and the filters of his fears and phobias shut out most extraneous detail. It works in this context although it isn’t a way of reading I enjoy usually, and I found myself a little frustrated as I ended the book with lots of questions. It does have the added value of making for great discussion points if this were a class reader, or making it one of those books that lingers in your mind for a long time after you’ve read it.