Title: Spy Stuff
Author Name & Publisher: Matthew J. Metzger (JMS Books)
Publication Date & Length: May 1, 2016 — 226 Pages
Anton never thought anyone would ever want to date him. Everyone knows nobody wants a transgender boyfriend, right? So he’s as shocked as anyone when seemingly-straight Jude Kalinowski asks him out, and doesn’t appear to be joking.
The only problem is … well, Jude doesn’t actually know.
Anton can see how this will play out: Jude is a nice guy, and nice guys finish last. And Anton is transgender, and transgender people don’t get happy endings. If he tells Jude, it might destroy everything.
And if Jude tells anyone else … it will.
Transition is difficult and complex. Change often makes us feel betrayed.
Anton is transitioning from living as a girl to living as a boy and simultaneously transitioning from having a female body (a prison) to a male body (liberation). Jude is transitioning from a regular bloke to something more. They’re both transitioning to adulthood. Society around them is transitioning too, becoming more open and tolerant. But what does it actually mean to be tolerant? This YA problem novel touches on the eternal question: Is it better to treat people as special or as not!special?
Matthew J. Metzger handles what could be tedious, harrowing, or upsetting with cheer and kindness. There’s no melodrama here. The idea that YA means “immature” or “histrionic” draws in many an author, but not Metzger. He’s presenting normalcy as it should exist. Whether it truly exists in the real world is a question he dismisses, instead presenting us this British-ese utopia where bad things happen but they’re always overcome. This novel is drenched in shades of gray.
It’s delightful novel. Funny and humorous and foreign (as I’m an American reader), the protagonist Anton is presented as someone in control of his own destiny, and capable of dealing with his emotions, his family, and his new boyfriend. Jude reminds us that open-mindness is not just a state of being, but deliberate action, and taking risks with our hearts.
There are the usual bad parents, but there’s no “Us v. Them” mentality, there is violence, but there’s no victimization.
There’s also quite a bit of sex for two fifteen year olds. That’s the other YA question: How do you deal with sexuality issues (and the implications of gender) without dealing with sex? So, there’s sex. It’s cheery and funny and mature, too.
If you’ve been generally supportive of LGBT rights but feel trepidation at what that entails for YA literature, Spy Stuff is the book for you. Metzger is as gentle with his audience as he is with his characters. I enjoyed every word.
~C. E. Case
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Matthew is an asexual, transgender author from the wet and windy British Isles. He is currently lurking in the Bristol area, but has lived all over, and has a special fondness for Yorkshire.
Matt writes LGBT novels, both adult and young adult, and particularly enjoys digging into the weird and wonderful diversity of people all across the sexuality and gender spectrums. When not writing, Matt is usually asleep, or crunching numbers at his day job. Free time is not really a concept here.
He is also owned by an enormous black cat. Approach with caution.
Author’s GoodReads Page