Jill McTeague is not your average high school graduate, she’s a scientific anomaly. Every month for four days she turns into Jack, a guy—complete with all the parts. Now everyone in her hometown knows that something very weird is up with her. So what’s a girl (and a guy) to do? Get the heck out of town, that’s what! With her kooky best friend, Ramie, Jill sets out for New York City. There both she and Jack will have to figure out everything from the usual (relationships) to the not so usual (career options for a “cycler,” anyone?)."- summary from Amazon
I really enjoyed the first book in this two-book series and was so excited to read the sequel ever since turning that final page. The first book was left on a big cliffhanger and this book explains a bit about what happens, but it picks up a few months after that climactic final scene. Jack and Jill are both very fun to read about, and there's more Jack this time now that he's out and about doing things. The character interactions feel so real and are so compelling; even though it's inanimate, one of my favorite "characters" (of sorts) is this one-armed mannequin that lives in Jill/Jack and Ramie's apartment who becomes this sounding board for the characters (mainly just Jill and Jack) and is part of the most hilarious scenes in the book, in my opinion. There are of course many interactions between real characters and not just real with inanimate objects interaction.
What I love about this series is the inventiveness of it. It's definitely not something you've read about before (or at least, I've never come across anything like it) and it's just done so well. Aside from that, there's a lot of issues brought up about gender identity, sacrifices, love, trust and so much more. The book is hilarious and clever, but it also has some real depth to it. It's got the best of both worlds.
I was satisfied with the ending, but am also curious as to how things play out. There are a couple questions left unanswered and I really want to know what happens next, but I think with something like this, it can be hard to wrap things up completely. When you're sharing a body with someone else, there isn't necessarily going to be a happy ending (unless one of the bodies is gay and they can find a bi person who accepts them; too bad Jack is straight.) and then the books would go on and on, which would be bad because we'd probably get tired of Jack and Jill eventually and we also wouldn't get to see what else Lauren McLaughlin is capable of. I'm excited to read what she's got coming out next!
Interview with Lauren McLaughlin 1) How did you get the idea for the Cycler series? Will there be anymore books in the series or is this it?
My ideas come from a dark and sometimes scary place called The Mind Swamp. Inside The Mind Swamp, idea fish swim around and compete for survival. They feed on random ideas, stupid thoughts, embarrassing desires, and, occasionally, each other. When one idea fish has eaten so many other idea fish that it practically bursts out of the swamp, I turn it into a novel. Cycler's feeding frenzy began in the early nineties, feeding on all of my own opinions, hang-ups, and attitudes about gender. Once I envisioned the main character as a cycling hermaphrodite, the story almost wrote itself. I think I may have a Jack-like man trapped inside of me. Most of my female friends think I do anyway. They've often referred to me as the “man of the gang.” I like this idea. I love men.
As for further iterations of the Cycler universe? Hmmm, probably not. Don't get me wrong, I know full well that my characters are leading rich full lives with or without my involvement. I just don't know if I have it in me to write another book in the series. My Mind Swamp is bursting with other idea fish.
2) You spent 10 years as a screenwriter (as well as producer), but have made the transition over to novelist. What brought you to screenwriting, and why did you decide to become a novelist instead? Are there any similarities between writing for a novel and writing for a screenplay?
I became a novelist because in 1999 I outlined a new screenplay called The Mind of the Highway. It was an epic space opera and it was so long, it would have actually taken about 10 movies to tell the story. I had recently read Dan Simmons 4 book HyperionSeries and I think it opened up something inside of me. I had never written an inch of fiction before that time, so I decided, just on a lark, to try my hand at writing a novel. By the time I looked up from my keyboard, I had written 30,000 words. And I loved them. Each and every one of them. That was it for me. I was now a novelist. Thankfully, the film company I worked for at the time, Lions Gate Films, decided to pack up and move to LA. They very conveniently offered to either A) move me to LA to continue my career as an in-house producer or B) cut me a generous severance check and say good-bye. I chose option B. I think naivete had a lot do with it. I figured I'd finish that space opera novel in about 6 months, sell it, and settle into a nice comfy career as a novelist. That was 2001. I never did sell that novel. And it wasn't until 2007 that I finally sold Cycler, which was actually the third novel I wrote. If I had known back in 2001 how hard it was to sell a novel, I might not have been willing to make that jump. Thank goodness for ignorance.
As for similarities between screenwriting and novel writing? Sure. A good story is a good story, regardless of the medium. The basics are the same. But with novels, you have time. You can slow things down if you want. You can really stop and paint the scene. You can digress. You can have ten acts, or twenty acts. Movies are short. About 100 minutes. They have to move. A screenwriter can't spend too much time painting the scene because that's the director's job. Also, with screenwriting, your end product―the screenplay―is not really the end product. It's merely a blue print. The final film might bear little resemblance to what you've written. I know this personally, because not only have I had my own screenplay's re-written by others, I've also re-written other people's screenplays. It's best not to get too attached to your script when you're a screenwriter, whereas a novelist wholly owns her work.
3) What are you working on at the moment? Can you tell us anything about it?
Ooh, yes, I can tell you all about it. Are you ready? Okay, here we go. My next novel is called Steal the Future. It's set in a small New England seaside community in an alternate present after someone has invented a software program which can process data from the now-ubiquitous surveillance cameras, along with cell phone conversations, email, and Web habits to come up with a monthly score indicating a teenager's overall social fitness. This score determines everything in life--who you can eat lunch with, who your friends are, where (and whether) you go to college, etc. It's like a universal S.A.T. score. The story follows a high school senior named Cady, whose score is 62, which puts her 8 points below the college line. She would have a much higher score (and guaranteed admission to college) if only she'd dump her best friend, Lizzie, who's a 27. But loyalty prevents her from doing that. In a desperate bid to salvage her future, she finds a way to "beat the system" by turning spy on a boy in her English class. He's an "unscored," one of the doomed few whose parents have "opted out" of having their kids scored because it offends their sensibilities. But as Cady's feelings for Diego evolve, she has to decide just how far she's willing to go to steal her future from a system that has it in for her.
That's my snappy pitch. Of course, as snappy pitches often do, it leaves out a lot of the really juicy stuff―like stolen kisses, diabolical school principals, and super fast boat rides. Oh, and lobster. Yes, there's lobster. Need I say more?
4) What book(s) are you currently reading, or are about to start?
I only ever read one book at a time. I've never understood how anyone can read more than one. I'm not smart enough to hold more than one plot in my head at any given time. Right now, I'm reading Catching Fire, the thrilling sequel to The Hunger Games. I don't know how she does it, but she hooks me. She's got me. I'm in. Where she leads I will follow. Next up is Robin Wasserman's Crashed, the sequel to Skinned―which I LOVED. Human psyche's downloaded into machines? Are you kidding? That's so up my alley.
5) And now, the burning question on everyone’s mind- what is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor?
I'm a 30 year old male who started a book blog over on Myspace back in June 2007. I have since moved completely to Blogspot as of July 2009- feel free to follow me on here! I mainly review YA books, but will also do the occasional MG or adult title, as well as interview authors and sometimes have them guest blog.