Fourteen-year-old geeky musician Alex wakes up hundreds of miles from his London home in the body of Philip Garamond, a high-school soccer star and girl magnet nicknamed Flip. Though asthmatic Alex is intrigued by his new, fit body and the attention it draws, he soon realizes he’s trapped in a new environment with new expectations that he can’t live up to. Along the way he meets Rob, a veteran of the same condition—psychic evacuation—who decides to take Alex under his wing. Bedford packs so much exhilarating action and cleanly cut characterizations into his teen debut that readers will be catapulted headfirst into Alex’s strange new world. They’ll wince in pain as the police escort him from a vain attempt to reconnect with his real family and rally when he connects with a new girl whom Flip would normally never look at twice. They’ll also wonder about Flip himself, who, besides Alex’s nightmares, exists only in the expectations and memories of the people Alex encounters. The mysteries are countless: What is a soul? Where does it go when its human host ceases to function? Bedford adeptly sweeps the existential curtain aside and tackles these heavy questions as the tension soars. Alex has to figure out why his soul overtook Flip’s body, and how—if at all—he can get back into his own before it’s too late. (Thriller. 12 & up)
Beautiful, talented, wealthy and above all headstrong, 17-year-old Lia Kahn knows who she is and what she wants, until she is severely injured in a car accident that destroys her body but spares her mind. Though she’s a candidate for a highly controversial procedure, Lia’s parents opt to preserve her mental capacity, including her memories and personality, by swapping her destroyed flesh-and-blood body for a machine model, which although it looks human does not breathe, eat or even need to sleep. Set in a well-drawn future world highly reminiscent of M.T. Anderson’s Feed (2002), this novel finds Lia reentering her familiar life to learn quickly that as a “mech-head” she’s subject to enormous prejudice, from the religious “faithers,” her popular friends and even within her own family—which causes her to seek the answers to serious and painful question about her existence. Futuristically blurring the boundaries of life and death, this text intimately tackles tough ethical topics, including faith, identity, suicide and genetic engineering, through blunt dialogue and realistic characters. (Fiction. YA)
It usually happens to 15-year-old Claire when there’s a thunderstorm, and only with someone born under the same moon. Switching bodies, that is. The bulky swimmer can’t explain why on a clear night she finds herself in the knockout body of Larissa, the snobbish vacationer she recently encountered in her sleepy seaside town. Or why she can’t return to her own body after sleeping, the usual remedy. With an overworked single mother who won’t reveal her father’s identity, the teen has only one confidante: her deceased grandmother, Evelyn, a fellow switcher who died prematurely in a mental institution. When gorgeous Nate, Claire’s longtime crush, decides to date Larissa and Evelyn takes over Claire’s body to relive her lost youth, will Claire ever want—or be able—to go back? As she discovers truths about Larissa’s family, Evelyn’s past and her relationship with Nate, she learns acceptance—especially of herself. Claire’s quick-paced narration comes laced with bolts of sarcasm; the realistic problems blend successfully into a suspenseful, mystical story that will attract fans of both chick-lit and the supernatural. (Fantasy. YA)
A trampoline collision and a magic arrowhead cause sixth-graders Tom Witherspoon and Emma Baker to switch bodies for four long days in which they discover and learn to sympathize with gender differences. Humorously presented, the underlying point is made explicit by their assignment for health class to pay special attention to how gender creates differences in our lives. From sports and school to erections and first periods, Tom and Emma find that others’ expectations and their own physical and emotional makeup shape their experiences. Through alternating chapters of third-person narrative, the reader comes to see those differences and learns that families can be different, too. Remarkably, the author succeeds in making clear exactly who is experiencing what in which body; the design reinforces this with chapter headings including traditional male and female symbols to show which bodies will be the focus. As is traditional in body-switching stories, Tom and Emma’s incredible experience allows them to become friends again, a cheerful ending to a message-driven but enjoyable read. (Fiction. 10-13)
Jill has more reason than most recent high-school graduates to be both thrilled and terrified to leave home: Once a month, instead of having her period, she turns into a boy. Throughout high school, Jill’s mother helped Jill sublimate her boy self so thoroughly that he became an entirely new personality, Jack. Now Jack and Jill, freed from the constraints of a whitewashed Massachusetts suburb, are ready to take on each other, Brooklyn and the world. In theory, anyway. In practice, Jill can’t stand that Jack’s dating her best friend, and Jack hates Jill’s long-distance bisexual boyfriend. Moreover, Jack despises the sketchy Brooklynite Jill might be dating, and both Jack and Jill feel a little lost in the wilds of New York. Packed with realistically emo adolescent pain, Jack and Jill’s journey of self-discovery is funny, heartwarming and just a little bit smutty. It won’t make sense without Cycler (2008), but it’s well worth the effort of reading both. (Fantasy. YA)
Jill has truly terrible PMS: Every month, for four days, she turns into a boy. When she wakes up female from her monthly male interlude, Jill meditates to remove all memories of the previous four days—a feat she accomplishes so successfully she creates Jack, an entirely independent personality for her male self. With the militant help of her fervently anti-Jack mother, Jill tries to lead a normal life. But prom is coming, Jill has a crush and Jack is getting restless. In this dark comedy of sex, gender and sexuality, Jill must come to terms with Jack before her mother’s hostility destroys them both. A yoga-addicted father, a bisexual hottie and a best friend who invents wildly bizarre fashions fill out a cast of quirky, entertaining, well-drawn secondary characters—with the exception of the unfortunate stereotyping of a kitchen worker as the only Hispanic character. Jill and Jack’s story, touched with intrigue, humor and fascinating questions, ends with a conclusion both satisfactory and open-ended. (Fantasy. 14-16)
A is a 16-year-old genderless being who drifts from body to body each day, living the life of a new human host of the same age and similar geographic radius for 24 hours. One morning, A wakes up a girl with a splitting hangover; another day he/she wakes up as a teenage boy so overweight he can barely fit into his car. Straight boys, gay girls, teens of different races, body shapes, sizes and genders make up the catalog of A’s outward appearances, but ultimately A’s spirit—or soul—remains the same. One downside of A’s life is that he/she doesn’t have a family, nor is he/she able to make friends. A tries to interfere as little as possible with the lives of the teenagers until the day he/she meets and falls head over heels in love with Rhiannon, an ethereal girl with a jackass boyfriend. A pursues Rhiannon each day in whatever form he/she wakes up in, and Rhiannon learns to recognize A—not by appearance, but by the way he/she looks at her across the room. The two have much to overcome, and A’s shifting physical appearance is only the beginning. Levithan’s self-conscious, analytical style marries perfectly with the plot. His musings on love, longing and human nature knit seamlessly with A’s journey. Readers will devour his trademark poetic wordplay and cadences that feel as fresh as they were when he wrote Boy Meets Boy (2003).
An awe-inspiring, thought-provoking reminder that love reaches beyond physical appearances or gender.
(Fiction. 14 & up)
Eon knows his chance of becoming the Rat Dragoneye is almost nonexistent. Crippled by an old injury, he can scarcely manage the sword forms Dragoneye candidates perform. More importantly, everybody knows that Dragons won't choose girls, and that’s just what Eon is, though he—she—has been in disguise for so many years she barely remembers what it means to be female. Indeed, the Rat Dragon doesn't choose Eon; the Mirror Dragon, lost for more than 500 years, chooses him instead. Raised instantly from slave to lord, Eon is thrust into deadly court politics. In a fantasy world loosely and uneasily based on Imperial China, Eon’s unexpected presence disturbs those who would overthrow the Emperor. Fast-paced excitement carries Eon through this tension-packed adventure, where victory can only come with self-knowledge. It’s too bad this excellent portrayal of a disabled action-heroine concludes by retroactively turning disability into a metaphor for ignorance. Nonetheless, this adventure, filled with intrigue, friendships, combat and magical allies, is a winner. (Fantasy. 12-14)
Unlike her starry-eyed sister, down-to-earth Em Watts isn’t thrilled to be at Stark Megastore’s star-studded opening, especially since her best friend and secret crush, Christopher, can’t stop drooling over teen modeling sensation and Stark representative, Nikki Howard. Just as Em wonders how Nikki can captivate people so, she suffers an accident that sends her to a Manhattan hospital with life-altering injuries that intimately intertwine both women forever—her brain has been surgically transplanted into Nikki’s body. This bizarre new relationship with Nikki forces Em, a self-identifying feminist, to reevaluate her life views and slowly to accept Nikki as more than just an airhead. Although quick to set up the accident and its repercussions, the text slows down to an even pace, introducing many juicy issues to be explored in the upcoming sequel, especially with respect to nefarious corporate activities. Although it relies on a somewhat far-fetched premise, the text’s abundant references to current pop culture and Em’s witty character keep this read both grounded and fun. (Fiction. YA)
The fate of many rests in the hands of an Austrian schoolboy and a British airman, both in disguise. Alek is the son of the recently assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, hiding from European nations hostile to his father. Midshipman Dylan is really Deryn, a girl passing as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service. Alek has fled home in a steam-powered Stormwalker, one of the great manned war machines of the Central Powers. Meanwhile, Deryn’s berth is on a massive airbeast, a genetically engineered hydrogen-breather, one of the Darwinist ships of the Allied Powers. The growing hostilities of what is soon to become the Great War throw the two together, and Darwinists and Clankers must work together if they all want to survive. Two Imperial forces meet, one built with steam and the other built with DNA, producing rich, vivid descriptions of the technologies that divide a continent. The setting begs comparisons to Hayao Miyazaki, Kenneth Oppel and Naomi Novik, but this work will stand—or fly—on its own. (Science fiction. 12-15)