Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Identity Issues

The new YA novel by T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper earns praise from The New York Times

Changers, the first in a fantasy series of YA novels by East Tennessee husband-and-wife team T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper, is singled out by the literary paper of record for its unusual appeal to teens struggling with identity issues—as what teen is not?

Things are worse than usual for the novel’s protagonist, a boy named Ethan, however. It’s bad enough that Ethan’s parents have recently moved him from New York to Nashville, but then he wakes up on the first morning of ninth grade to discover that he’s become a girl named Drew, and that he belongs to an ancient race of people known as “Changers,” who awake to a new identity at the beginning of each year of high school. The point seems to be to develop an unusual capacity for empathy, but Ethan, now Drew, finds the whole thing horrifying: “[I]f this whole Changer mission is about improving the human race by making everyone kinder or more understanding or some crap, then they shouldn’t have involved teenage girls.”

“That sensation of being in the wrong body will be familiar to transgender and gender-fluid teenagers,” notes Benoit Denizet-Lewis in The New York Times:

Done differently, the Changers setup, so obviously designed as a metaphor for gender identity issues, could have made the book feel like the middle-grade Animorphs series reimagined by a liberal arts college’s Gender and Sexuality Studies program. But Changers should appeal to a broad demographic. Teenagers, after all, are the world’s leading experts on trying on, and then promptly discarding, new identities.

Fans of Changers will be heartened to know Drew has three more years of high school, which means the authors have planned three more books in the series. Having survived life as a cheerleader, Drew will go on to become a nerd, a jock, and an outcast. Stereotypes will undoubtedly be squashed. And some version of Drew will surely be assigned to detention. Because no series concerned with high school, identity and unexpected empathy would be complete without a nod to The Breakfast Club.