Hits, Hoverboards, and Alternate RealitiesMichael M. Guevara
Back in the days before television screens were flat, before we had televisions in every room of the house, before crazy high screen resolutions let us see every line, wrinkle, and flaw on previously unflawed celebrities, I remember watching a boxing match during the Olympics with friends and saying, “So who are we rooting for–guy in red or the guy in green?”
They looked at me like I had just asked who Muhammad Ali was. They practically responded in unison, “No one is wearing green.”
Ash sees stop signs as blue. Haven’t they always been blue? Blue is how everyone else sees him and isn’t it a little odd that he is even questioning the color of stop signs.
But in the book Game Changer by Neal Shusterman Ash somehow knows, feels, senses something isn’t right.
“I spent my lunch on Monday in the school library, looking up the history of road signs. I was obsessed now . . . The history of road signs is much more interesting than you might think. Apparently, the color blue was chosen over red for two reasons. First, because concerns over red-green color blindness [remember my intro]. Second, because red invokes anger in mammals” (22).
Maybe Ash is living in a different reality, and maybe it happened after that hard hit from his last football game. Was he even remembering a team with a different mascot, a family with a different dynamic and tax bracket?
“My new life had a pool and a pool table. It had an eight-seat home theater in the basement. It had a designer wardrobe without a single pair of Wrangler jeans or Target t-shirts in the bunch. Why was I fighting this? Maybe I needed to take a chill pill as my dad embarrassingly says, and go with the alternate flow” (47).
But this isn’t the only thing that’s changed for Ash.
What starts off seeming like a sports book that “begins and ends with football” and is seemingly about the dangers and risks of concussions, turns out to be so much more (2). Game Changer is a book about diversity, inclusion, acceptance, choices, and judging others choices only by what we see from the outside. It’s also a book of twins on skateboards–or rather hoverboards–who become triplets, quadruplets, and quintuplets who guide Ash through transdimensional event horizons with each change of his reality.
On the cover of the book, the tagline reads: There are infinite ways to do the wrong thing. Ash knows this too well because each reality change for him changes the reality of all those around him. His decisions change realities and rights for those around him.
Shusterman takes readers into an altogether different approach to walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Whether Ash gets back to his actual reality or whether we can actually know how much our choices affect others rests at the heart of this trippy little story that will have you examining just how you move through your own reality.
Lesson: Turn Left and Choose
Game Changer is a book that “begins and ends with football,” but is really about the choices we make and how our choices influence and affect others.
“There are choices we make, choices that are made for us, and things we ignore long enough until all choices have fallen away” (4).
“Turn Left” is an episode of the sci-fi show Doctor Who that is all about how one choice can affect so much and so many others.
Show students this clip.
After watching the clip, read or play the audio clip of the poem “Why I’m Here” by Jacqueline Berger.
Provide students with a copy of the poem to use as a mentor text. Have students write their own versions of the poem.
As an extension, students can choose photos or images that help tell their stories and the choices for why I am here.
Michael Méndez Guevara is a former high school journalism and English teacher who spent his time in the classroom helping students see themselves as writers and fall in love with reading through the world of young adult literature. As an educational sales consultant with Perfection Learning®, Michael works with teachers and schools on improving their literacy instruction and providing resources to help students achieve academic success. He has taught elementary school, middle school, and high school and has worked as a district level leader and served on the Texas state standards revision committee that developed the state’s current literacy standards. He is the father of three adult sons, the youngest a student at the University of Kansas—Rock Chalk! Michael is working on a professional development book for literacy educators and currently has agents reading the manuscript of his young adult novel, The Closest Thing to a Normal Life. When he's not reading, writing, or running, Michael is fully committed to watching as much Law & Order as possible.