Author: T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper
Genre: Young Adult
Published: February 4th, 2014
Publisher: Akashic Books
Source: Giveaway via PaperLanternLit
The cheerleader, the nerd, the jock, the freak. What if you had to be all four?
Changers Book One: Drew opens on the eve of Ethan Miller’s freshman year of high school in a brand-new town. He’s finally sporting a haircut he doesn’t hate, has grown two inches since middle school, and can’t wait to try out for the soccer team. At last, everything is looking up in life.
Until the next morning. When Ethan awakens as a girl. Ethan is a Changer, a little-known, ancient race of humans who live out each of their four years of high school as a different person. After graduation, Changers choose which version of themselves they will be forever—and no, they cannot go back to who they were before the changes began.
Ethan must now live as Drew Bohner—a petite blonde with an unfortunate last name—and navigate the treacherous waters of freshman year while also following the rules: Never tell anyone what you are. Never disobey the Changers Council. And never, ever fall in love with another Changer. Oh, and Drew also has to battle a creepy underground syndicate called “Abiders” (as well as the sadistic school queen bee, Chloe). And she can’t even confide in her best friend Audrey, who can never know the real her, without risking both of their lives.
With a such a crazy concept, I knew it was going to be a fun ride, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hesitant at first. By the end, however, I was captivated by this moving insightful story, and Ethan/Drew really stole my heart. There were some tough and sensitive subjects, but T. Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper handled them with tact and care, and most of my worries dissolved.
At first, I was wary of how the authors would handle a teenage boy transforming into a girl. I mentally prepared myself for over exaggerated gender stereotypes and crude humor. I was ready to cringe if Drew looked down her shirt and was utterly amazed at her boobs or if she started crying about how it was the end of the world now that she was a girl. Imagine my surprise when none of that happened. There were a few gender stereotypes mentioned, but they weren't used as a punchline for a funny joke. Instead, Drew was able to empathize and grow as a person in these situations. In fact, Changers Book One really stole my heart by the end. Drew's experiences the perfect blend of humor and sincerity, and it left me feeling so much that I didn't want the story to end.
It helps that Drew was a character I could easily root for. I have to admit, if I were in her situation, I probably wouldn't have handled it as easily as she did. Of course, she was surprised by the changed, but she easily adapted to them and open to new experiences. Even though the book as a science-fiction twist with the Changers and all, it felt like I was reading more of a contemporary book. Drew still had to navigate the high school setting and deal with friendships, relationships, crushes, overprotective parents, and the pursuit of one's own identity.
I loved how they dealt with the romance in the book. Although there was a moment of "Hm, this is weird," it didn't really bother Drew that much that she was attracted to both a guy and a girl at the same time. But overall, what I enjoyed the most the friendships formed in this book, especially Audrey and Drew's. Sometimes, the "best friend" in a book is often treated as a minor sidekick or a second banana. This was not the case with Changers Book One. Between the shared secrets, the fights, the makeups, and the actual amount of time they spent together, Audrey and Drew is one of the most realistic high school friendships I've read about. In fact, I grew so attached to them that their last day of freshman year really tugged at my heartstrings.
I have to admit the writing style was a bit off-putting at first. While the book is considered young adult, I sometimes felt that it fell more in the middle grade category, especially when slang like "geezus" and "grody" was used. (Or perhaps I'm just getting old). Then again, it's written from Drew's perspective as if it was a mental diary, so maybe the style and vocabulary will grow along with Drew. Even at the end of this first book, you can easily see how much Drew developed as a person.
Still, there were a few plot holes left at the end, and I had a lot of questions about the Changers. For example, why didn't the parents prepare Ethan more? Who exactly decided on all these cultish Changers rules? How exactly will they change the world? What happens if a friend from your past or your three other identities try to hunt you down? Will they report you missing? It's only the first book in the series, so I didn't expect them to answer every question, we'll have to see if we get more answers in subsequent books.
The entire thing is an emotional journey of self-discovery and I look forward to the rest of the series. I’m curious to see how Drew will handle her next identity, and hopefully it’ll manage to fix some of the problems and fill in the holes left over from the first book.