4.1 17
by Lauren McLaughlin

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“It will keep pages turning.”—Chicago Tribune

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. But 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

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“It will keep pages turning.”—Chicago Tribune

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. But 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—who lives his four days of the cycle in the solitude of Jill’s room. But Jack’s personality has been building over the years since the cycling began. He is growing less and less content with his confinement and his cycles are more frequent. Now Jill’s question about prom isn’t about who she will go with, but who will she be when the big night arrives?

“The narrative toggles back and forth between Jill’s and Jack’s points of view, comically detailing the problems you can get into when you’re half boy and half girl, including what happens when the boy falls for the girl’s best friend.”—The New York Times

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Editorial Reviews

Julie Just
The narrative toggles back and forth between Jill's and Jack's points of view, comically detailing the problems you can get into when you're half boy and half girl
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

The idea governing this debut novel is as fascinating as it is grotesque: for the four days before Jill McTeague gets her period, she is a guy-her body literally morphs, with a full complement of genitalia, body hair and musculature. Her male self calls himself Jack (the chapters alternate between Jill's and Jack's voices). Jill and her parents keep Jack caged in Jill's bedroom until he changes back into Jill, who then returns to school, her social life and her heterosexual romantic aspirations as if nothing has happened. For the first third of the book, the premise substitutes for a plot; at this point, Jack goes after Ramie, Jill's free-spirited best friend, while Jill learns that the guy she likes is bisexual. What with the escalating craziness of Jill/Jack's parents and the sex scenes (including Jack's responses to the porn his mother buys for him), the degree to which McLaughlin pushes toward the ever-more-disturbing seems gratuitous. The gender-bending premise, certainly guaranteed to grab teens' interest, is much more fun (and possibly more fruitful) to talk about than to read about here. Ages 14-up. (Aug.)

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Children's Literature - Janis Flint-Ferguson
What would it be like to be a member of the opposite sex? Jill McTeague knows. Each month she spends four days as Jack; she spends four days as a male, not just in dress or appearance, but in real flesh and blood. And so she, or he, is locked in the bedroom for four days. This unusual lifestyle becomes more problematic as Jill looks to go to the high school prom with new student Tommy Knutson. She enlists her girlfriends Ramie and Daria to help her get Tommy's attention. But Jack is becoming more aggressive during his time of the month and he is looking at Jill's best friend Ramie with lustful intentions. While Jill is blissfully oblivious to Jack's intent, she is beginning to realize that her relationship with Ramie is changing. Jill's parents are complicit in trying to keep Jack contained, but Jack has a very definite mind and voice of his own. The story moves back and forth between the perspectives of Jill and Jack, giving mature readers a look at life through the eyes of the opposite sex. Adult language and behavior are gradually more a part of Jack's appearances. This is certainly a girl's book with a wicked twist that is fascinating and serious, though it is contrasted by a silliness of stereotypical teen behavior. The sequel is already underway. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson
VOYA - Kathie Fitch
High School seniors Jack and Jill have a problem. They share the same body. The body usually belongs to Jill, but four days a month she morphs into Jack. She tells her friends at school that she needs transfusions for a blood disorder, and that is why she goes missing. Jack is remanded to the house when it is his turn to emerge. Jill's mother supports her during these transformations while her father stays secluded in the basement. Jill and her best friend Ramie hatch a plot to get sexy Tommy Knutson to be Jill's date for the prom. Things are moving in the right direction until Tommy confesses to being bisexual. Jack muddies the waters further by acting on his strong attraction to Ramie and seduces her. The whole situation blows up at the prom when Jack arrives to dance with Ramie and turns back into Jill on the dance floor. Confusing? Topics such as Jack's routine masturbation, discussions with his "thing," and graphic sex with Ramie make the novel too mature for middle school age whereas the silly plot, told in alternating chapters by Jack and Jill, really cannot hold the attention of older teens. An audience for this one will be difficult to find. Reviewer: Kathie Fitch
KLIATT - Myrna Marler
Once again, the reader has to buy the premise in order to enjoy this book. The issue may be won or lost on the first page. For four days every month, all-girl Jill inexplicably changes into all-boy Jack. She explains this away by saying she is in the hospital receiving blood transfusions, while her compliant alter ego Jack is normally kept penned up in his underwear in Jill's room during the four days a month he exists as the body dominant. For the other 26 days a month, his consciousness is on the back burner but very much alive in that he eventually develops a wildly passionate love for Jill's best friend Ramie. Meanwhile Jill is hotly attracted to Tommy, who returns her interest, although he announces to Jill that he is bisexual. Further, Jill's consciousness keeps getting tangled up with Jack's consciousness and vice versa, giving rise to all kinds of issues of gender identity. OK, the author has an agenda, which she states in a note to the reader: she says her reading, experience, and studies of feminist theory in college "awakened [her] to the phenomenon of gender as a fluid and creative construct that can either empower or destroy." In the end all is revealed, leaving all four players with a conundrum that will, no doubt, be resolved, or at least extended, in sequels. The book is humorous, the friendships believable, the dialogue entertaining. But isn't the world of teenage identity complicated enough without adding suddenly shifting genders to the mix? Or perhaps, the author might argue, these questions are already part of the mix. Reviewer: Myrna Marler
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

"I am all girl." That's the mantra that Jill desperately chants to herself whenever she feels the inevitable approaching-her body transforming into Jack. Four days a month, prior to menstruation, Jill's body mysteriously morphs into a male body, complete with sex organs. Despite countless hospital visits and hours of research, there is no explanation for this frightening phenomenon. In order to deal with the situation, the teen has developed a "Plan B," consisting of visualization techniques and chanting. Despite missing school and the necessity of giving noncommittal answers about her absences to her friend Ramie, Jill has ordinary teenage worries. Prom date issues are her prime concern, including garnering the attention of an elusive male student. Jill's situation grows treacherous when Jack rebels against the restraints placed upon him. The family has managed to keep him under control, but now he desires life outside the four walls of Jill's bedroom. His resentful attitude toward Jill causes significant upheaval and damage to her social life and causes a startling development in her friendship with Ramie. Themes of bisexuality, porn addiction, and gender identity make this best suited for mature readers. The writing is witty without being overly precious or self-conscious. The nonjudgmental attitude of some of the teen characters may not be entirely realistic, and the ending is abrupt and inconclusive. Still, Jill's real-life secondary concerns will ring true for many readers.-Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

Kirkus Reviews
Jill has truly terrible PMS: Every month, for four days, she turns into a boy. When she wakes up female from her monthly male interlude, Jill meditates to remove all memories of the previous four days-a feat she accomplishes so successfully she creates Jack, an entirely independent personality for her male self. With the militant help of her fervently anti-Jack mother, Jill tries to lead a normal life. But prom is coming, Jill has a crush and Jack is getting restless. In this dark comedy of sex, gender and sexuality, Jill must come to terms with Jack before her mother's hostility destroys them both. A yoga-addicted father, a bisexual hottie and a best friend who invents wildly bizarre fashions fill out a cast of quirky, entertaining, well-drawn secondary characters-with the exception of the unfortunate stereotyping of a kitchen worker as the only Hispanic character. Jill and Jack's story, touched with intrigue, humor and fascinating questions, ends with a conclusion both satisfactory and open-ended. (Fantasy. 14-16)
From the Publisher
“Artfully fractured and wickedly smart. A brilliant screwball comedy about love, self knowledge, and the secret identities inside all of us.” —Scott Westerfeld, bestselling author of Pretties and Uglies

Review, The New York Times Book Review, September 12, 2008:
"The striking jacket of this oddball first novel says it all: the girl on the front cover becomes an almost identical-looking boy on the back."

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
NC720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

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.


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.


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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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