Game Changer by Neal Shusterman Examines Bias, Philosophy, Universes: a Book Review


What would you do if the entire world had altered and you were the only person who remembered how things should have been?

From the bestselling author of the Scythe series, Neal Shusterman, comes Game Changer, a new novel about being the center of the universe and how our limited points of view and biases influence the worlds around us. Game Changer tackles a lot of challenging subjects head-on by blending sci-fi elements like universe hopping, philosophical conversations, and dystopian yet disturbingly similar universes. 

Ash is your average white football player who believes he’s a pretty decent guy, overall. But after one hit on the football field, Ash’s life is no longer what he remembers. He’s been thrown into another reality, seemingly impossible, and continues to bounce across worlds that are almost but not quite his own. The alterations begin slowly but swiftly spiral out of control as Ash slips into universes where he has everything he’s never wanted, universes where civilization is locked in the past, and universes where he finds himself seeing life through wholly different lenses. 

Game Changer is one of those books that you can’t talk much about without giving the whole story away, but the novel is fast-paced, and I was captivated throughout, wondering how each universe could alter what we already know. With only a few chapters to establish the world, Ash begins to fall into dimensions right away, drawing us in with him because the book has a lot to cover. Shusterman’s usage of jumping among worlds was well thought out, and the sci-fi details was something I enjoyed a lot while I read this book.

Ash is also led by multidimensional beings known as the Edwards, who multiply with each universe leap. They are delightfully chaotic as they strive (more like attempt) to guide Ash through this massive experience, and they not only provide rich background and context, but each of their motivations is complex and engaging.

The entire premise is highly original and contemporary, even touching on events of 2020. It was fascinating to observe how a single change in history can create such massive ripple effects both in the global social system and in Ash’s own life. The plot can be a bit difficult at times, but it opens up a lot of worthwhile conversations about racism, sexism, homophobia, and abuse. 

Sometimes, Ash pauses his narration with philosophical monologues and questions for the readers to consider. This choice broadens the debate and generates anticipation for what’s to come, but it also comes across as a little sanctimonious. Yet, despite the fact that the lessons were a little heavy-handed and delivered directly to us, I find myself still reflecting on everything the book addresses and can confidently claim that it left a profound impression.

Overall, I believe it is a well-meaning and thought-provoking novel that left me wanting more. I do wish it had focused on developing the outcomes of one or two of the worlds because each topic Ash was getting a crash course in was so vast. I liked the idea and the message the book was trying to convey, but it could have been done a bit better. It tried to cram too much in, which diluted the gravity of the very real problems. 

This book is certainly worth reading and debating, particularly for readers interested in investigating the “what ifs” of distorted realities or approaching challenging issues from a new perspective.

Teenagers frequently feel as if the world revolves around them, and this interesting and well-paced narrative imagines what it might be like if this were actually the case.