A Changer never returns to their childhood name and body; for adulthood, they choose one of the identities they’ve experienced serially during high school.
This first-person protagonist has been a thin white girl, a thin black boy, and a fat Filipina-looking (as described in the previous book) girl. As this series-ender opens, she’s still Kim Cruz, with one more incarnation looming. Changers’ raison d’être is to mend the world because humans who’ve lived as more than one race or gender would never discriminate. This premise posits race and gender as exterior traits; deep connection to various identities is missing, and changes bring no new cultural knowledge. The protagonist cannot learn with any fullness what it’s like to be a fat Asian girl unless we reduce “being” to issues of discrimination and privilege, ignoring the many layers and facets to any identity apart from how others treat you. Additionally, being “postgay and postgender” is considered evolved, which almost dismisses distinct identities more than honoring them. In other ways, however, the text is admirably anti-racist, anti-sexist, and pro-queer, the latter including a refreshingly mellow attitude about bisexuality. Social justice murkiness aside, the suspense is high, the plot is irresistible, and contemporary cultural references overflow—from edibles to hashtags. This series is knowingly cool but still cool (though quoting Audre Lorde without attribution isn’t—and is a missed opportunity to educate readers unfamiliar with her work).
Fast-paced and wonderfully, forcefully loud about privilege—but, premise aside, this explores discrimination more than identity. (glossary) (Fantasy. 12-16)