*This review will contain spoilers!*
The Changer life is a unique life: every year, on the first day of the new high school year, the Changer wakes up in their next ‘V’ – a form that they live in for the next 365 days. On the first day of their first V, the Changer gets an implant inserted into the back of their neck, and using that implant they Chronicle, mentally writing diary entries about each day of their life. At the end of the four years, after inhabiting four different bodies, the Changer chooses their Mono – the singular form that they will occupy for the rest of their lives.
Of course, Ethan doesn’t know this, so when he wakes up on his first day of high school as a super attractive blonde girl called Drew, he’s understandably freaked. His – sorry, her – parents are excited, her Static (human, non-Changer) mother is over the moon to finally have a daughter, and her Changer father is happy to finally be able to share his true nature with his child. But Ethan/Drew is annoyed to have had such a huge secret kept from her, and it takes a long time for her to come to terms with the news about her life.
‘Drew’ is split into three seasons: Fall, Winter and Spring, with the chapters being told through the Chronicling diaries (for example: Change 1 – Day 265). At the start the days are near consecutive, showing how much is happening in Drew’s life that she’s still attempting to come to terms with, but as time goes on the Chronicles become fewer and farther in between as less of note occurs on a daily basis.
I have to congratulate the authors for creating such a strong voiced character. Within the first few pages you know exactly who Ethan is, and when he changes into Drew his response definitely makes him a stand out character. Sometimes I find adults writing teenagers to be a bit cringey, and it is at times (the appearance of ‘jaysus’ and ‘gawd’ being particularly NOPE moments) but other than a few incidents towards the start of the story, the rest of it is brilliantly crafted.
There’s a lot of different themes tackled in this novel: gender identity, gender perception, bullying, xenophobia and sexuality, to name but a few. Because Drew has been Ethan for the entire start of her life, she finds it strange when she’s suddenly attracted to Chase, because he’s a male (and a Changer, which is totally against the rules, but no matter!). However, she’s also attracted to her best friend, Audrey: it seems natural because she’s liked girls her entire life, but now that her gender has changed it causes her even more internal struggling.
We also have the problem of the Changers vs. the Abiders – people who believe that humans should only ever occupy one form, as God intended, and whose only objective is ‘the eradication of the Changer race’. When Drew discovers Audrey’s brother Jason is an Abider, she starts to worry about Audrey being brainwashed into becoming one of them – as Audrey departs for Abider summer camp at the end of this first novel, I’m hoping that will be tackled in Drew’s next incarnation.
By the end of the book, Drew has already learnt a lot of lessons: not to judge people based on their sexuality or their gender; not to dismiss the difficulties that women have just because of their gender; not to take for granted who anyone is, because everyone changes – even if not to the same extremes as her.
While the book teaches some good lessons, I feel as though you could definitely tell it was the set-up to a larger series. The internal monologue of “oh, I’m a Changer, this is weird, I hate this, I hate everyone… well except from Audrey” got a bit grating at times, but I think that’s something that would improve as the series went on and the Changing became secondary to the plot.
The second book in the series, ‘Oryon’, sees Drew become an African American, which I’m hoping will bring a lot of opportunity to tackle racism and the perception of black youth by the general public – there’s a lot of potential for plot in this second installment, both in character choice and in the ongoing fight between the Abiders, the Changers and the RaChas (Radical Changers, a group who want Changers to become public knowledge) so there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m definitely going to pick it up when it releases in March. ‘Drew’ was a solid start to what could be an extraordinary series, so I’d certainly recommend it if you’re looking for something a bit different.