Top critical review
I thought it was a perfectly pleasant example of a teen romance story
Reviewed in the United States on June 25, 2018
I purchased this book as part of a 30 Days of Pride Book Review project. This is that review:
Eighteen year old Amanda Hardy takes the bus to her father’s house, the man she has hardly spoken to since her parents divorce six years before. Her parents agree that she might be safer there, where she can finish her senior year of high school with a clean slate, where nobody remembers she used to be Andrew Hardy. At first Amanda thinks that she can just keep her head down and go through the last year of high school safe and invisible, and then she meets Grant and suddenly she is caught up in the, before now unconsidered, possibility of being actually happy.
Honestly, this is your typical girl meets boy love story. A girl who everyone thinks is more beautiful than she feels, falls for a boy and can’t believe that she is lucky enough that he falls for her too...with of course the small difference that Amanda’s past makes all of these feelings and choices more confusing and dangerous. The story opens up in Amanda’s present, as she is finally getting to live as the person she has always felt she was, but in interspersing chapters, memories from her past remind us of how lost and desperate she felt, growing up as Andrew, and all the violence, hope, and transition between those two times.
The story is simple, but feels very emotionally truthful. Her relationships with her parents are tinged with a sense of loss and an almost awkward attempt at understanding. Her relationships with her new friends are tinged with the fear of someone discovering her, and everything is overshadowed by the looming violence from her past.
Honestly, the only thing that really annoyed me, was how she was this perfect shining example of a trans woman. She would have to be among a ludicrously privileged few to be able to transition as easily as she did: to have safe legal access to hormones in time to negate almost all of puberty, to get her surgery at such a young age… even if money were not even an issue, which lets face it, money is a huge hurdle for so many trans women who decide they wish to medically transition with hormones and surgery. It just seemed like that part, that huge part of the struggle, was sort of surreal and glossy, like a photoshopped picture of what it means to be trans…
BUT… I was slightly mollified by the Author’s note concerning her choices in writing the character this way and her acknowledgement of bending reality a little, while cleaving to normative standards in making Amanda as much like a “typical” teenage girl as she could. I liked that she asked her cis readers not to take Amanda’s story as a gospel of the trans experience and that she asked her trans readers to not let Amanda’s story make them feel like their trans experience was less valid. I really like that she acknowledged it and it kind of turned down my annoyance meter.
Do I recommend this story? I recommend it for some people. If you like teen romances with some drama and violence thrown in, then you will probably enjoy this story. The writing is very simple, the characters are uncomplex, the story is predictable and things just seem a little watered down. I guess you could say that it’s like the novel equivalent of a teen drama like Degrassi. BUT...I happen to have a guilty pleasure for Degrassi… and so do a lot of people. So, I recommend it to those people.
Okay, so lastly I will put it on the rating scales for this project.
On my Queer Counterculture Visibility scale, which I made up and assign points for on my personal whims, it does okay. I really like that this story is from the perspective of a young trans woman, that it was written by a trans woman, and that the cover art is a photograph of a young trans woman. REPRESENTATION! There just aren't enough trans POV characters in young adult fiction. Amanda and most of the side characters were white, with one trans woman of color on the periphery of the story, but she was written as a positive role-model and I liked her. There were a few other characters on the peripheral edge who identified as lesbians, bisexual or gay...not much story time was really devoted to them, but they got a little. And the briefest mention of other transitioning characters, in the form of a support group, gave a small nod to the fact that there are a lot of different stages and ways to transition. As a whole, It was planted pretty firmly in the normative comfort zone, but it had a window open toward a view of some other ways of existing. I’m going to give it:
3 out of 5 stars
On the second scale, the Genre Expectation scale, which I use to measure my feelings about this book as compared to other works in the same genre, I’d say it also does okay. I think it is an important addition to the genre to have a trans character represented, but on its face, it doesn't do anything else to bend genre expectations. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. I thought It was a perfectly pleasant example of a teen romance story. It met but did not exceed my expectations for the genre.
3 out 5 stars