(Re)cycler: YA science fiction that tackles sex, gender with a lot of smarts

(Re)cycler is the sequel to Lauren McLaughlin's fantastic debut YA novel, Cycler, an sf story about Jill McTeague, a high-school senior who turns into a boy for four days every month. Like Cycler, (Re)cycler is a smart, sensitive story about gender, sex and sexuality, leavened with a lot of wit and sass.

(Re)cycler picks up where Cycler left off, with Jill and her two best friends leaving small town Massachusetts for parts elsewhere. Jill lands in Brooklyn with her pal Ramie (who is also dating her male alter-ego, Jack) and commences to come of age in a setting that is frightening, dangerous, exciting and exotic.

Both Jack and Jill's voices are carried off fantastically in this story, coming across as confused but confident, and both characters grow in ways that are unexpected and extremely satisfying.

There's plenty of YA literature that treats sexuality as a problem to structure a morality play, but McLaughlin transcends cliche, and delivers instead a book that is sexy, smart, surprising and fun, without skimping on the hard emotional stuff.



  1. I disagree; I thought the first book was rather dumb at times. Silly mad-cap antics, a lot of the characters weren’t fleshed out enough, and too much was left unexplained presumably because McLaughlin knew she was going to be able to write a sequel.

    Don’t know if I’ll give this one a look, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to see if the books are getting better.

  2. I’m with LB. The original didn’t actually do much to encourage thinking about real gender issues, and went backwards in terms of transgender awareness.

  3. I have to agree with LB…the first book was just so…bad, for lack of a better word. None of the characters were really likable and they really weren’t developed well at all. Jill had to be one of the most insipid, whiny characters I’ve read about, with the exception of Bella from Twilight. If the second book is much better, than I’d consider reading. Otherwise, forget it.

  4. From the other comments it appears that this is just a novelty plot device, perhaps used to push sales to people who want to think they’re progressive thinkers? :) Seriously, reading the line about how she turns into a boy for 4 days every month, it sounds like the author just cued off feeling “unfeminine” during menstruation. Although I must admit it would be interesting to see whether she presents the boy-Jill and girl-Jill as having different mental perspectives, and why Jill’s friend would only date the boy version (whether it’s shown to be just a physical attraction, instead of an attraction to the person, etc.) (Maybe I’m just showing my own bias to pansexuality and an interest in true genderqueers, however?)

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