5 star, YA

ARC Review: Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

All it takes is one hit on the football field, and suddenly Ash’s life doesn’t look quite the way he remembers it.

Impossible though it seems, he’s been hit into another dimension—and keeps on bouncing through worlds that are almost-but-not-really his own.

The changes start small, but they quickly spiral out of control as Ash slides into universes where he has everything he’s ever wanted, universes where society is stuck in the past…universes where he finds himself looking at life through entirely different eyes.

And if he isn’t careful, the world he’s learning to see more clearly could blink out of existence…



**Game Changer comes out February 9, 2021!**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

That basic human need for identity is, and has always been, a double-edged sword. Because the closer to our feet we draw that line in the sand, the more we see everyone else as the enemy.

I don’t have any coherent words to say, but I will do my utmost best.

Game Changer is a different kind of story than Neal’s other books, but at the same time, I totally see how it is in his wheelhouse of ideas. While I have seen other early reviewers calling it preachy and taking on too much, I think this was the author’s way of dealing with the wreckage that was 2020. I mean, even COVID was mentioned briefly as a defining moment of history. Like, hey, remember the year everyone went into lockdown due to COVID? Yep. Not sure if I’m ready to see this mentioned in my fictional books, but I totally understand at the same time.

We follow Ash, full name Ashley, a football lineman. I know next to nothing about football – I’m sorry it’s not my country’s sport? – but this isn’t a football-focused story. It’s just the vehicle by which Ash finds himself hurtling through different dimensions of the same world if certain changes or decisions were unmade. I know, this sounds super vague but bear with me.

At first it may be a little confusing to get into. What? Different worlds? Trust me, you just got to hang in there. The changes initially start small. Just one small detail Ash notices that wasn’t the same as what he previously knew the world to be like. However, no one else in his circle of family, friends or townspeople can recall these changes. It’s like the world never made those decisions and Ash is the only one who remembers a different reality where it existed.

I always admire Neal for his ingenuity and creative thinking. I like this take on multi dimensions. And with each dimension Ash accidentally jumps into, the larger the changes and the more drastic consequences. The interactions and events that occur in each dimension’s timeline are still remembered in the new dimension, but with altered memories to fit the narrative of what that world looks like. Yes, it’s a bit complicated but it’s interesting once we’re there.

Now, where do the more negative reviews stem from? This book tackles A LOT of big issues. Racism and segregation, homophobia and hate crimes, sexism and emotional/physical abuse, it’s a lot to learn and take in for just one of these let alone ALL of these. I get that.

BUT I also see where the author is coming from. I don’t see it from the stance that he fully explored each topic in depth (of course he didn’t), but to showcase how imperfect our world is and what more we need to work on as a society together. Yes, sometimes you may feel called out on our own privileges and our ignorance. I think that’s the point. Neal Shusterman’s books always make us think beyond just the story itself to what our own reality and life is like. What makes us tick. What breaks us apart. What builds us up together. It’s the beauty of it!

I can promise you, the ending isn’t just a white-saviour complex whereby Ash, a white dude, saves everything and all is good in the world. No, the point is that there is still a lot to be done and it starts by each of us owning our own biases and figuring out what we CAN do besides just silently agreeing. The ending is hope.

I personally loved the way Neal introduced, not necessarily solved or fully addressed, each social issue we have through Ash’s eyes. I don’t feel called out by it but invigorated to learn more and do more in my life. I hope you pick up this book and feel the same. Let’s not just get defensive but let it bring us to discuss these things to learn and DO something about it.

I have been schooled in my own ignorance. That’s not a bad thing…Perhaps, in the end, that’s the perspective that matters. Only by being humbled can we ever hope to be great.

Ashley Bowman

Overall Recommendation:

Game Changer is one of those books that stay long with you after its final pages are turned. Juggling many things at once, it delicately balances the need to show us the imperfections of our society and world while emphasizing the optimism and hope that we can do better as a whole together. Shusterman excellently throws these perspectives together in a story of multi dimensions through one boy’s eyes. Following Ash’s journey as he unravels his own ignorance and views of the world is eye-opening and guaranteed to shine a light on our own perspectives as we journey with him. What a read indeed!

4 star, adult

She Felt Like Feeling Nothing by R.H. Sin

This is not a traditional review either. It seems that only poetry books can draw this out of me as I’m normally not a poetry reader.

she felt like feeling nothing -rh sin

I came across this wonderful book by random, flipping through these pages. And in an instant, my heart was hooked. Painfully. For there on the first page were words that wholly described me. Even after 5 years.

Have you ever been in a relationship where the one you loved just never seemed to love you back? No matter how hard you tried, no matter how much you gave of yourself, it was like you were never enough.

This is exactly what she felt like feeling nothing was. And the sad thing is? Having these words still resonate so deeply within me suggested that maybe I hadn’t let go of all that I thought was in my past.

As we move through the stanzas that I’ve selectively chosen from this short but encouraging book, I’m leaving behind on this page a bit of honesty of who I was and where I hope to be one day. To all you women out there who understand this as well, know that you’re not alone. To all of you who may not fully understand it, I’m happy that you didn’t need to go through such an ordeal and I hope you’ll hold onto those who unfortunately have.

what happened to your soul

i see the bruises and the scars

he never deserved to touch your canvas

how’d you forget that you are art

i know it fucking hurts

but i’ll just say this because it’s true

any man who hurts your heart

is incapable of falling for you

This was the first poem in the book that drew me in. A part of me still wonders after all these years if those bruises and scars on my heart have fully healed or if I just cauterized them and pretended that it was good enough. And if only the younger, more naive version of me could’ve understood that someone who made me cry for 3 years would never be able to say yes in the end.

i think there are times

where you miss the version of yourself

who never knew

what it meant to feel betrayed

Looking back, I wouldn’t necessarily undo the pain I’ve been in. It’s changed me into who I am today. But there are times when I find myself wondering who I could’ve been without this hanging over my past. Would I have made better choices later? Would I have been a better person?

a man who is unsure about

the way he feels for you

is unworthy of a space

in your heart

If only the 17 year old in me would’ve believed such words. If only I could’ve learned to let go in my heart.

you are something

that someone

has been waiting

their entire life for

And yet, maybe I have never believed that since. Is there a way back to such a belief?

you’ve hidden so much

of what you’ve felt

in the corners of your heart

refusing to open up

out of fear of being hurt again

To risk one’s heart for something that could be great, but could also bring a world of pain? To feel worthy to be loved? Am I still capable of that? If he was staring right in front of my face, would I be brave enough to reach out and open up my heart?

to love and not be loved in return

is the most destructive kind of love

that type of love is a love

that causes us to lose love for ourselves

In other words, unrequited love. If you thought that sounded romantic, it falls very far from that…

i think you’re just

this beautiful misfit

nothing wrong with being different

in search of something real

in search of someone who will listen

someone who will care

someone who will stay

a love that brings you closer

a love that never strays

I was once a romantic, but now I’m not sure what that even sounds like. Yet I see the stars and the flowers in the spring and find myself wishing the grand stories of love could be true for a mere misfit like me.

it’s hard to forget someone

who used to make your soul smile

but it’s even harder to remember

everything they used to be

Reading this whole book has dredged up a lot of memories for me. Maybe they’re things I should’ve dealt with a long time ago. Maybe it’s a good thing to finally air it out, no matter how hard it is to remember how it once was. The way he made me smile. The way it felt as easy as breathing once upon a time. Until it didn’t.

If it’s anything, taking this trip down memory lane has opened up the floodgates for me. And I’m not saying this book may be for everyone, but it surely was for this still-healing girl here.

Maybe it’ll bring healing. Maybe it’ll hurt worse before it gets better. As I look at who I am now, yes, I’ve made mistakes and I took down with me people who didn’t deserve that. But I’ve grown stronger and I’ve gained perspective and I’m no longer that 17 year old girl.

Maybe someday soon, I will learn to love myself more. And believe that I am worth loving by someone I took a risk for.

But that day just isn’t today.

5 star, musings, YA

Bending the Universe by Justin Wetch

While this is based on the book, Bending the Universe, by Justin Wetch, I find myself not wanting to write a traditional review on this. Is it because this is the first poetry book to be featured on my site? Maybe. Yet, there’s just something about this piece of work that seems to understand parts of me that I can’t eloquently describe as well as Justin did here.

Split into 5 sections (Society, Love, Life, Personal, Nature), Justin pours his heart and honesty from his own life into 100 poems. I can always admire people who pour out their soul into their work – I mean, I also write out my feelings especially when they’re overwhelming me as it has been more lately – but what makes this extra special is just how much they resonate with me.

Each section has something special that just makes me go, oh wow, I completely get that. That is ME too. The below will hold snippets of his poems and why they resonate with me so much.


I pour out myself to others, and it’s been a taxing toll sometimes. I call it like leaving a piece of myself with them as once I do so, I won’t take it back. It’s theirs to keep. It’s been important to me to love others, to share life and all that is good with them.

Like a candle giving its flame to another

Selflessly, spreading light and colour

It takes nothing of ourselves to inspire

goodness in others, to speak life and new fire

into existence. (Candles – SOCIETY)

Heartbreak. Ah, to feel the burning passion that seems to consume us. We know it’ll hurt to get so close to the flame, yet there’s something poignant and real to be so close to something we deem worth the pain. Ah, it goes back to the old saying. To have loved and lost or to have never loved at all? Which is better?

What is this sickness within me

That longs to be burned to ashes by a fierce passion

And hates this peace?

This dreadful, meaningless, horrible, good calmness.

So in the middle of the night

I awaken in a cold sweat

And without a plan, leaving everything behind

I flee to a foreign city

Where I don’t even speak the language

Where the doctors don’t know my name

Where the Lithium will soon wear off

And I will soon be free again.

I don’t want safety or guarantees –

I want a life worth living.

I want to jump off a skyscraper

And fashion a parachute on the way down

Out of my fears and trepidations

Because sometimes survival

Isn’t the most important thing

And surviving

Isn’t the same as living. (Lithium – LOVE)

In those darkest nights when I lie in my bed and wonder or despair – sometimes consecutively and around we go – and sleep abandons me to my endless train of thoughts and anxieties.

Hope is a foolish disaster, ending

All realism and rationality, lying

Always promising too much, trying

To blunt the painfulness of life, muting

Dark thoughts and catalysts for weeping.

Sadness is the cruelest of emotions, crying

Deep sobs into the canyons of the mind, sinding

Broken songs of torment and death, sending

Echoes at random into the future, requiring

All happiness to be punctuated with mourning. (Midnight – LIFE)

Yet from all these above poems, nothing resonated as much as the poems in the Personal section. It’s like Justin gets me – or vice versa. To understand someone I love, to live a life that’s meaningful with no regrets at the end of the day, and to love someone wholly with all that I truly am.

I wanted to ask you

What thoughts plague your mind

When you stay up past midnight

And allow your brain to think freely;

I wanted to know, truly I did so,

But I merely wanted, and did not do.

I wanted to ask you

Many a thing, telling it true

I wanted to delve into your soul

And find out what makes you, you;

I wanted to, but I guess I’ll just settle

For a “I’m good, how about you?” (I wanted to ask you – PERSONAL)

What does it take to please me?

How will I learn to be happy?

I could be the greatest things

And still yearn to be better

Because, in truth

My greatest fear on this earth

Is to be on my death bed

– Hopefully at an old age –

And to look back upon a life

That I didn’t live to the fullest. (Eternity – PERSONAL)

I cry out and scream

Demanding answers, any at all

What does any of it mean

When will clarity call?

Will I ever give my heart

To love without reservation?

Will I ever learn the art

Of waiting with true patience? (The weight of the future – PERSONAL)

And last but not least, I too feel the same weight of nature on my heart. I could be outdoors all the time, really. But most of all, I can spend eternity staring up at the night sky with all those stars staring back at me.

When the brightness of one star

Is lost in the multitude of its brethren

It makes one feel so insignificant

But simultaneously irreplaceable.

Thoughts of chance and destiny

Burn into my retinas

So when I close my eyes

I see only profound thoughts.

Under a night’s sky

Filled with a hundred billion stars

Is it so crazy to believe

Our paths were destined to cross? (A hundred billion stars – NATURE)

I probably shouldn’t go on much longer but this book is filled with poems such as these. Honest, real and heartfelt, there was so much connection found in these pages. No matter the heartache, sleepless nights or other experiences that come our way, we are connected to one another through it all. This book proves it. Now go and see how much of these words resonate with you too.