Tag Archives: #Trans

4 Stars for The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson #Trans #YoungAdult @lisa_letters

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Title: The Art of Being Normal
Author Name & Publisher: Lisa Williamson (David Fickling Books)
Publication Date & Length: January 1st 2015- 298 pages

Synopsis

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in Year 11 is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long . . .

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Review

fourstars

I always appreciate seeing more trans fiction, particularly YA. For the most part, this is a good read, with flawed-but-likable characters and a plot which doesn’t solely revolve around being trans (though that does play a big part).

It’s difficult to review this without spoilers because the things I liked most and least about this book are things which can’t be fully explained due to the surprises. I can say that I loved the end and found the resolution to several things to be satisfying and hopeful.

The novel switches first-person POV between David and Leo. Of the two, I found myself able to relate more to David, but I sense many readers will feel a stronger connection to Leo. That’s as it should be and is a sign of strong writing and characters who aren’t flat or stereotypes.

The story itself is terrific, albeit a bit binary (a trans girl who only likes boys is pretty standard stuff; would be nice to see a bi or lesbian trans girl). I enjoyed the friendships and family relationships, and it was easy to get a sense for who the characters were. The pacing was great, and it didn’t feel rushed or too slow to me. I definitely wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen.

The biggest hesitation I had (and for me, this is major–it may not be nearly as much an issue for other readers) was the “surprise twist” with Leo. First of all, I had both his secrets pretty much worked out toward the beginning. Second, I really dislike when an author uses a vital part of a first-person character’s life as a surprise for readers. It comes across as being played for shock value (even if this is not the intent). The story would not have changed at all if readers had known up front about Leo. Every single other thing would have remained identical, so I feel no need for that to have been a revelation to readers 2/3 of the way through the story, especially given that we knew David’s big secret just about on page 1. It’s even more mystifying when I consider the fact that there’s an even more significant (and emotionally impacting) revelation later in the story.

Despite that, I still think this is a good read, probably more aimed at people who are not trans but want to understand the experience many trans teens have in a world where they are at least to a degree able to come out at younger ages than in past generations.

Amy

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3 Stars for 180 Days by T.E. Ridener #Trans

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Title: 180 Days
Author Name & Publisher: T.E. Ridener
Publication Date & Length: September 29th 2015- 296 pages

Synopsis

Lydia McIntosh left her old life behind when she said goodbye to Prairie Town, North Carolina and started over halfway across the country with her beloved Gran; away from her family, away from everyone who knew the person she once was, and from the identity she never quite wanted in the first place. When her grandmother passes away, she returns home and while she only intends to stay for the funeral, her grandmother has other plans, from the grave. Her will states that Lydia must remain in Prairie Town for six months in order to give her family and her old town a chance to get to know the new her, the real her. Lydia has had years to adjust to long hair, summer dresses, and nail polish, but she understands her family will need time to get reacquainted with a daughter they’ve never known and a sister they’ve missed terribly. Anticipating the worst, as she always has, Lydia’s feelings about her old town begin to change when she meets her brother’s best friend, Callum. Callum is kind and more accepting than she could have ever imagined and she’s falling for him. When her 180 days are over, will she be able to say goodbye to the family she’s missed so much? Will she survive her mother’s endless intolerance? Can she really leave the man who acknowledges her past and still wants her? A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a story about a transgender girl and her journey to acceptance and love when she returns to her hometown. Within the pages of this book you will be introduced to characters who color outside the lines and that’s just how they like it. I implore you to give them a chance because we are all beautiful and unique in our own ways, and we all deserve love and happiness.

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Review

ThreeStar

I chose this book because I liked the premise and I love reading good stories about trans characters. I’m really torn on how I feel about this one.

On the one hand, I really liked the characters. Lydia was sweet and funny, and I loved Callum. With the exception of Lydia’s mother, I thought her family was great. There were a number of supporting characters I really liked as well.

On the other hand, I found so many little things that frustrated me. One or two things might not have been a big deal, but that many were distracting. I feel like trans people reading this might want to be forewarned, and people hoping to understand being trans might come away more confused than before. So here are the things which left me feeling uncomfortable.

There were some factual inaccuracies (for example, the FDA has no official stated policy on trans blood donation, and if you’ve changed your gender with Social Security, no one could tell that way that you’re trans; discrimination happens, but in the scenario in the story, it’s highly unlikely–I just can’t give spoilers for why). The timeline was really confusing with flashbacks to Lydia’s life before she left, and it felt like there were holes there. I was put off by constant references to “the sex change thing” and other outdated language. Agatha was potentially a great character, but it got lost in their constant name changes (Agatha, Agnes, Aggie, Ags–which I couldn’t tell if they were related to Agatha’s in the moment sense of gender or just an error or some other reason) and referring to being gender fluid as “split personalities.” Laney identifying as “not into men” but being interested in Benji was also horribly problematic (trans men are men, not some other gender unless they state otherwise and definitely are not lesbians). The trans characters often referred to their dead names (pre-transition/birth-assigned names). Almost all the trans characters were basically heterosexual, and Lydia kept referring to “real sex” despite having been intimate in many ways with Callum by that point. There was heavy focus on “passing” and having sex reassignment surgery. The plot device at the end was a bit over the top for my preference as well.

I’m glad to see more people taking an interest in writing about trans characters, and I hope the trend continues. I did enjoy the love story, but the other elements made it hard to concentrate on that aspect. I guess this just wasn’t really the book I hoped it would be.

~Amy

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Filed under 3 Star, Amy, Review, Trans