Cycler

Cycler

by Lauren McLaughlin

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Overview

AS FAR AS anyone at her high school knows, Jill McTeague is an average smart girl trying to get her dream date to ask her to the prom.

What no one knows, except for Jill’s mom and dad, is that for the four days Jill is out of school each month, she is not Jill at all. She is Jack, a genuine boy—complete with all the parts. Jack lives his four days per month in the solitude of Jill’s room. But his personality has been building since the cycling began. He is less and less content with his confinement and his cycles are becoming more frequent. Now Jill’s question about the prom isn’t who she'll go with, but who she'll be when the big night arrives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375892479
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 08/26/2008
Series: Cycler
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 294 KB
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Lauren McLaughlin spent 10 years in the film industry, writing and producing films. She abandoned her screen ambitions to write fiction and is currently at work on the sequel to Cycler. Lauren’s Web site and blog are available at www.laurenmclaughlin.net. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Read an Excerpt

“I am all girl.”

It’s my own voice I hear as I lie in bed half-awake, half asleep. In my dream, I’m walking barefoot through the woods behind my house. It’s fall, and the flame-colored leaves float softly downward. Out of nowhere, a Ferris wheel appears and I get on without a ticket.

“I am all girl.”

I say it because my body is betraying me. In my dream, the colorful autumn day becomes night. The Ferris wheel speeds up, breaks free of its foundation and rolls through the darkened woods. Shearing tree branches with loud splintery crunches, it rolls toward the black lake at the edge of the tree line.

From deep within me, behind organs, beneath muscles, a jagged pain is born.

“I am all girl!”

I open my eyes to the real night, the thick molasses darkness of it. But it’s only when I spot the red numbers of my clock that I’m sure I’m awake: 4:27 a.m. The pain is building to a sure and steady climax and I don’t know who I am.
Jack or Jill.

“I am all girl!” I squeeze through clenched teeth.

There’s a land mine exploding outward from my stomach and lower spine.
I’m not supposed to wake up in the middle of things. All of this is supposed to happen while I sleep. I shove my hand beneath the sheets, praying, hoping the transformation is nearly complete, but when I reach lower, there it is–limp, smooth and insistent.

Jack.

He’s supposed to fade in the night and I’m supposed to wake up fully constructed. Instead, I have his thing to contend with and a deep ache that, now that I think of it, is not exploding outward but sucking inward like a vortex.

“I am all girl.”

That’s my mantra. I use it to forget. But it does nothing to ease the pain.
The muscles of my abdomen spasm and I squeeze Jack’s thing in response, as if he were doing this to me–the sadistic jerk. I know that’s not true. Grabbing the pillow with my other hand, I press it to my face.

“I am all girl,” I growl. I don’t want to scream, but I can’t stop myself. “I . . . !”

I’m lost now, a rudderless ship on a wild and cruel ocean. “Mom!” I know she can’t help. No one can.

“Mom!”

The bedroom door opens; then the bed sags with Mom’s weight. Her perfect brown bob is sleep-mussed and her pale face bears deep pillow wrinkles.

“Shhh,” she says. “It’s okay, honey. ‘I am all girl.’ Say it.”

“I am all girl.”

I want to absorb relief from these words or from the forced calm of my mother’s face, but relief never comes. Looking past her, I spot Dad hovering in the doorway, disheveled as always and chewing on his thumbnail. No relief there either.

Then the split begins.

At the base of Jack’s thing, the pain gathers to a diamond point. I grab Mom’s cool hand and squeeze. My flesh punctures from within. Then, zipperlike, it tears itself open. I throw my head from side to side.

“I.” Gasp. “Am.” Gasp. “All.” Gasp. “Girl!”

“It’s okay,” Mom says. But I hear the strain in her voice. She’s starting to panic too.
The split now complete beneath Jack’s quivering thing, I try to pull my legs together. I don’t know why. Protective instinct, I guess. But I can’t control my legs or anything else. My body is in control, orchestrating its mal proceedings from the angry vortex at the base of my spine. The vortex sucks harder now, pulling at my bones, my muscles, retracting my thighs, melting the firm stomach until it’s soft and feminine. My body remakes itself with no mercy, sanding
the crisp edges from my jawbone, deflating the gentle biceps, brutally inflating my breasts.

“I am all girl!” I scream, all sense gone.

“Shhh,” Mom says. “Breathe, baby.”

But every breath is a new gut wound. The bones of my ankles rearrange themselves in miniature. Even my toes protest the change. Unthinkingly, I clench Jack’s thing with my sweaty hand and force the breath out in an angry rhythm.

“That’s right,” Mom says. “Breathe.”

With what’s left of my brain, I can still remember, I can still think. Jackthoughts, Jackfears, Jackdesires. He’s angry. At me. At Mom. He doesn’t like chunky peanut butter and she keeps feeding it to him. He wants a new pair of boxer briefs and some Elvis DVDs. He wants us to turn the Internet back on.

“I am all girl!”

I clench Jack’s thing harder now and it slips weakly from my slick palm into the sucking mouth of the vortex.

And then it’s gone.

All of it.

Not just Jack, but the pain too. That’s the merciful afterthought of this wicked hullabaloo. The pain doesn’t fade slowly the way it builds. It evaporates in a euphoric instant. I look up at Mom’s ever-calm face backlit from the hall light spilling through the open door. She whisks a strand of hair from her eyes, then touches my cheek with the backs of her fingers.

“Plan B?” she says.

“Not now,” I say. “Too tired.”

I lift my head to look at Dad. His greasy hair and guru beard connect in a continuous circle of grunge around his frightened face. He’s the same mess he has been for years. But I’m so blissed out on post-agony, I can’t help but love the guy.

“Sorry, Dad,” I say.

“It’s okay, honey.”

But he’s still chewing on his thumbnail because it’s not okay and he knows it. It’s never going to be okay either. Not for him, not for me. Not for any member of the McTeague household.

Within this house is a monster, a freak, a slave to the calendar and my own lunatic hormones. Before every menstrual cycle–every phase of the moon, if you want to be romantic about it–I am savagely transformed from girl to boy for four full days, then wickedly reshaped into girlflesh again. Most of the time, I sleep right through it. Most of the time.

“Good night,” I say. “I’ll do Plan B in the morning.”

Within seconds, I’m out.

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Cycler 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
CYCLER is one of those rare storiess that can transcend one genre of book. Touted as a science fiction story, it can easily pass for a contemporary teen novel, with a little bit of mystery and even horror (if the concept of the story creeps you out!) thrown in.

Jill McTeague is a normal high school girl. She's got good friends who are helping her to snag a date to the prom. Not any date, though. She's been asked by her science lab partner but brushed him off saying it was too early to plan for the prom. She'd rather go with Tommy Knutson. They have Calculus together and she catches him looking at her throughout class.

There's only one small glitch in her plans. As long as her cycle stays on course, she can attend the prom as Jill. But if there is even a slight miscalculation on her part, she may be Jack at the time.

Jack is the person she becomes for four days prior to her period each month. The cycling from female to male started three years ago. She and her mom have been to all the doctors and had all the tests done, but no one can explain it or give her any help. So the McTeague family has taken matters into their own hands. When Jill becomes Jack, he is forced to stay home from school (they've created an ongoing need for blood transfusions each month for Jill by way of explanation) and denied access to the outside world. Jack has no access to the Internet, or a cell phone. His only stimulation comes from the piles of books, DVDs and porn Jill or her mother procures for him (thanks to the sticky notes he leaves for Jill when he's visiting).

Things are going along smoothly for Jill and her crush, Tommy, has started noticing her, no thanks to the crazy J-bar incident at the local ski slope. Now Jill just has to get him to ask her to the prom. However, in the meantime, Jack has snuck out of the house on his latest visit to peek at a sleeping Ramie, Jill's best friend. Jack is obsessed with Ramie. Mrs. McTeague strips Jack of all privileges and locks him in his room.

As the prom gets closer and closer, the cycling becomes more complicated for Jill and Jack. Jill has a harder time forcing Jack's residual thoughts into oblivion, and being around her best friend draws conflicting emotions within her.

CYCLER is a unique story that has many surprising elements within its covers. There is a lot of graphic sex talk, so those easily offended should refrain from picking this one up. My only complaint about the novel was the repetitive use of the world "mal." It was used quite often throughout the story and seemed to hamper the flow, rather than assist it. However, that being said, the entire concept is fascinating and kept me spellbound throughout the entire novel. It's not until the prom arrives does everything finally come together with the appropriate conclusion.

CYCLER is Ms. McLaughlin's first published novel, and according to the bio at the end of the book, a sequel is in the works. I know I for one will be keeping my eyes open to see what happens with Ramie, Tommy, Jack, and Jill!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found Lauren McLaughlin¿s Cycler to be a truly enjoyable read. It will provide a challenge to the reader as it delves into gender and sexuality, topics that need to be probed if you are a teenager. The book is a ¿must read¿ for those young adults who are questioning their persona. The characters are funny, as are many of the situations they find themselves in. Ms. McLaughlin is a quality storyteller, The book may invoke some controversy, but that is what makes it interesting. Young adults will relate to the characters. It is thought provoking. That makes it an enjoyable read.
francescadefreitas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So for four days of the month, Jill leaves school for blood transfusions - in reality she is locked in her room, transformed into a boy. Her family treat her as they would a werewolf, all sympathy for the girl, and none for the wolf. Jack is locked up and given no human contact. When jill meets a new boy, who turns out to be bisexual, and Jack escapes and falls for Jill's best friends, and Jack and Jill start to consciously and unconsciously influence each other, well, drama ensues.I thought the actual story fell short of the premise, mostly because Jack is treated so badly, and given so much less page time than Jill. I couldn't quite sympathise with Jill's wish to wipe Jack form existence, especially because I enjoyed his voice so much. I am interested to see how the sequel will play out.
brandileigh2003 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The premise and writing was great, it just fell a little flat for me. I think that there were too many twists and that things weren't fleshed out as much as it could have been.Also, with Jack-- everything went back to sex, and even if guys really think that way- there needs to be more depth for me.I liked the friendships in this book, and I like that the mom is very involved in Jill's life, even though there are problems, big ones, with her interactions with Jack
stephxsu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jill McTeague has a terrifying secret: once a month for four days, she changes¿physically and mentally¿into a boy named Jack. If anyone finds out she¿d just die, and so Jill works hard at repressing her memories during Jack¿s days, and continues to live her normal life with her outlandish but beautiful best friend, Ramie, coming up with ways to get her crush, the enigmatic Tommy Knutson, to ask her to the prom.Unbeknownst to her, however, Jack has been developing desires of his own¿for Ramie. Desperate to explore the confines of Jill¿s room, he attempts to break out and get to know Ramie for himself, instead of just through Jill¿s memories. Unfortunately, the results could be catastrophic. CYCLER is without doubt one of the most unique, thought-provoking, hilarious, and crazy stories that I have read so far this year. It¿s an unforgettable mishmash of awkward teen love combined with the deeper implications of gender politics and identity.A quirky story like CYCLER wouldn¿t be successful if it weren¿t for the incredibly real characters. Jill, Jack, and Ramie are delightfully well developed and memorable; their conversations crack me up, while some of their actions make me cringe with all-too-familiar empathy. With the sure-mouthed, quick-paced, and acidic wit preferred by authors such as Laura Ruby and Robin Benway, CYCLER¿s characters will also stick with you for a long time.The plot is a little shaky at some points, particularly when important romantic connections occur. In fact, a lot of reality must be suspended to appreciate this character-driven story. Jack and Ramie¿s relationship developed too quickly, while Jill and Tommy¿s also had a note of incredulity to it. All that is forgivable, however, in light of the characters.If you¿re looking for a smart and odd read that¿s worth the reread, pick CYCLER up. Mature teens and open-minded adults will fall in love with this quirky ¿love triangle¿/identity crisis story.
twonickels on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Identity, romance, controlling parents - these are tough issues for any teenager to deal with. Turns out they all get a whole lot tougher when your body can't decide whether you're a boy or a girl. Four days a month, Jill McTeague turns into Jack McTeague - and neither one of them is very happy about it. Science can't explain what is happening to Jill, and no one is quite sure what to do about her condition. So instead of subjecting her to a barrage of tests and baffled scientists, Jill's mother hides Jack away and explains Jill's regular absences with a lie about the need for a periodic blood transfusion. Using self-hypnosis and the constantly-repeated phrase "I am all girl," Jill is able to erase her memories of "Jacktime," although he sometimes communicates with her by writing notes - usually requesting porn or his preferred peanut butter. Jill's mother has a need to be in constant control, and her father has removed himself from their lives almost completely. It is difficult to know which parent's reaction to Jill's condition is more harmful. While her Mom does everything she can to help Jill deal with her transformation, her treatment of Jack is terrifying cold. As the book goes on, it becomes clear that she does not see Jack as her son, and that she is absolutely willing to abuse Jack in order to keep Jill's life in order. While the father clearly cares about both Jack and Jill, he has no idea how to deal with the situation and turns all control over to his wife. Since the changes began when Jill was in middle school, her mantra of "I am all girl" has spread into all parts of her life. Jill stops playing sports, loses touch with her dad, and tries to erase anything that she identifies with boys from her life, totally paranoid that anything about her might be perceived as masculine. This insecurity is especially interesting when the boy Jill has been crushing on - and who has been showing signs of interest - reveals that he's bisexual. Combined with Jack's lust for Jill's best friend Ramie, Cycler delivers a completely original love triangle. Or is it a square?Lauren McLaughlin's plotting is so completely new, which makes up for a few of the novel's shortcomings. Ramie and Jill speak in their own personal slang, with the words "deeply" and "mal" used constantly in their dialogue, which is distracting and does not ring true. And the pacing sometimes feels rushed, although I think this is because most of the novel is told from Jill's point of view, and Jill has a very limited capacity for self-reflection. Jack does not block out Jill's experiences from his memory, and that is part of what makes him a much more compelling character. Jill is so terrified of associating herself with Jack that she will not reflect on any part of her life. Like her mother, she makes constant plans to control Jill's (and Jack's) life. And like her mother's plans, they often come with unintended consequences.
Jellyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I totally should've reviewed this days ago when it was still fresh in my head and not crowded out by other things. But..Older teen Jill turns into a boy once a month for 4 days before her period. This started with puberty, but she totally hates it, so she meditates to block out the memories. This has led to her boy self developing an identity of his own -- he's Jack.But Jack is always trapped in the house because they don't want the secret to get out. So he spends the four days looking at porn and fantasizing about Jill's best friend. Then he sneaks out, which leads to further restrictions placed on him by his parents.Meanwhile Jill's making the moves on a boy in school, who has a secret of his own.I didn't like either of the personas at first. I was annoyed at Jill for surpressing her boy half and annoyed at Jack for being all about the porn and the not-washing. And then the plot is about Jill chasing after this boy and putting plans into action, which you would think would be the worst YA teen plot ever. Banal and stupid and boring.But somehow it wasn't. Somewhere along the way, I got sucked in. And then I started liking the characters. And then it took a few turns I wasn't expecting. And then it ended really cool.I'm ready to read the sequel.
ReadingFanatic09 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting twists and personalities in this book. I really started reading it expecting to dislike it, but I somehow was pulled into the (rather shallow) storyline. Good escapist literature will do that I suppose. I think that the author could have fleshed out the characters more--Jack is all about sex, sex, sex. I mean, I know guys might think a lot about sex in high school, but seriously, it's not the ONLY thing that they think about! Give the poor boy some personality! I'm interested to pick up the sequel now to see how she develops the characters and especially to see how Tommy and Ramie actually react to the revelation that ends the book.
biblyotekerin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. It's well written, very creative, with mostly realistic characters. (The mother is a bit too much of a stereotype, my only complaint.) Ms. McLaughlin sets up a unique situation for her protagonist, high school senior Jill McTeague, who must navigate her own sexual orientation in a most unusual way. Aided along the way by her best friend, Jill discovers answers she never would have expected.
kellyholmes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary: Jill McTeague is a typical senior girl. Except for the tiny issue of how four days out of every month, she turns into a boy named Jack¿in both mind and body.Review: The premise of a cycling hermaphrodite made me think the book would be cheesy and induce frequent eye-rolling. But it was a great read.This book made it fun to explore the themes of sexuality and homophobia without being hit over the head with a ¿message.¿ At first, the non-politically-correct language about non-straight characters bothered me. But then I realized that duh, this is how a lot of teens talk about and deal with issues of sexuality. It wasn¿t that long ago that I was a teen myself, after all.My only criticism of the book is that one of Jill¿s linguistic quirks¿mal¿got to be a little much sometimes. I wonder what the ¿magic¿ frequency is for using a linguistic quirk but not overusing it. (If you have a Kindle, does it let you search the text? I can see myself buying it primarily for reasons like this!)One final note to those of you considering reading this: A sequel is planned, so the conclusion is of the open-ended variety. I didn¿t mind it in this case, but I just wanted to let you know in case you prefer to wait until an entire series it out.
ReaderigirlReviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
OMG you guys, I know people say "I couldn't put this book down," to the point where it's uncool to say, but I literally couldn't put Cycler down, or at least I didn't want too! Admittedly there were a few parts that I felt were kind of inappropriate, and I didn't love those, but overall it wasn't enough to make me put it down, and it ended up being a GREAT book! I'd totally recommend it, though you should know before you read it that there's some fairly mature content so you might want to have a parent or older sibling flip through it before you do, unless your about 15 or your parents (and you!) don't mind.NE-ways GREAT READ!!! I can't wait for the sequel!
TheBookCellar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cycler was a book with a very unique plot. Cycler definately gets big points for originality, but I think it was almost a little too out there for me. The fact that a split personality evolved and a girl becomes a guy 4 days a month just didn't catch me. Cycler was better as the novel went on. The beginning, to me, dragged a bit. The end was faster paced, and held your attention, while setting the stage for book 2. The characters were a little too one-dimensional for my liking. All the gender myths were present in both Jack and Jill. This may have been the point as the two personalities are male/female, but no guy or girl fits gender myths 100% percent. I loved Ramie's character, despite her letting random strangers through her window at night :). I thought the cover design was really neat, having Jill on the front and Jack on the back. The sequel (Re)Cycler comes out August 25!
bluesalamanders on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Instead of typical PMS that many women get for a few days each month, Jill changes in a more visible fashion: she turns into a boy.When it first started, apparently she was still mostly herself, just physically male, during that time. But she couldn't deal with being male three or four days out of every month, so she and her parents came up with a sort of guided meditation so she could erase all memory of it. This caused the unexpected side-effect of a sort of forced multiple-personality, with her male side developing into a distinct persona ("Jack") with wants and needs separate from Jill.This was an ok book, but it didn't quite manage to sell the premise to me, and with a premise this wacky, it needs to be sold hard (or, as Jill would say, it needs to be deeply sold). Beyond the initial weirdness of Jill's condition, in some ways the book is a fairly standard high school story, with Jill worrying about being invited to the prom (and acting like an imbecile trying to get the boy she likes to ask her). I didn't like Jill very much, actuallyNot that I liked Jack much better, although to be fair since he spent his whole existence locked inside Jill's bedroom, it isn't entirely his fault. But he does go rather creepy-stalkery at one point, and that's not cool in Twilight and it's not cool here.
WonderWmn More than 1 year ago
Walking the shelves at the library, the title Cycler drew me to check this out. Different, I thought, but if it's about bikes I'll puke. I picked it up and the front cover was a girl in a bra and boxers while on the back was a guy who looked like the girl and was also in the same boxers. Hmmmm.... Ok, interest piqued. I read the synopsis and though, ok, now here's something original. A girl who turns into a guy in every way, shape, and form, for four days out of the month. On one side we have Jill. Your average high school senior. She has a friend who is a bit out there and a crush whom everyone seemingly avoids. She has a secret too...Jack. Now we have Jack. Complete opposite of Jill. Can't keep his hands off his junk, yep, you read right, and due to his porn addiction, has managed to get the internet removed permanently from the house. Oh, and he has desires for Jill's BFF. The story seriously dragged for about half the book. The slang words such as "mal" and "deeply" were used so much you could create a game out of it. It took everything to keep me reading and for my family who was around me, they heard the groans everytime the slang words came up so they thought I was going senile. Finally, halfway through the book, the author finally got to the meat of the story. At the same time the slang words diminished too. Almost like they were fillers. Jill & Jack, opposites, started to fight for the power over the other. Jill, who learned to block Jack's life out, started to get unwanted glimpses of Jack's doings. At the same time, Jack, who was locked away in the bedroom during his 4 days, wanted to spend time with the person he wanted to be with. Yep, Jill's bff. You can imagine how Jill was feeling when she started realizing what Jack was doing/feeling. Things get crazy, many lines are crossed which lead the way to a scrumptious ending. The ending, well, scrumptious fell flat. It went from a banana split sundae with all the fixings to a a plain vanilla cone. After finally bringing me to the point where I was finally glad I had kept reading the ending went into chaos. The storyline had some twists that made you wonder why the character would even do that and what did stay in place went by with a quickness that left me going, say what? After getting the story streamlined, I wish the author would have stayed that way and not rushed it. And the absolute ending, well, you kind of figure out what's going happen, but you are a bit surprised of where it happens. Would I recommend it? Yes, but honestly, I love YA fiction but this just isn't up to par with what's out there and available for everyone, so I wouldn't suggest anyone go out of their way to read this right now. Now, my college going daughter read the sequel, "Recycler", and she said that the second book was way better than the first. I will have to check that our for mys
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