Saturday, December 24, 2011

Booke Review: I Am J

Yaaaaawn, since this is going up close to midnight for me, Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it and for those who don't, happy Sunday. I've been to too many family gatherings to think of much to say so I will just say that this book came well recommended and I was surprised that the local library already had a copy of it.

I Am J by Cris Beam

Having a cover for a book about a transgender teen is a tough thing to think of (since that would be really hard to show in a single image of a person and you really need to have the person on a cover of a book like this) and I think this is a great image for it. The cover is a bit ambiguous about the character's gender (I would have assumed a guy but I'm sure some people thought otherwise) and one of the first things J is able to do for himself is make a binder to tie down his chest. Plus there is all the symbolism about hiding under the jacket and such, I just think it's a great idea for a bit of a tough concept.

Summary: J is transgender, born in a female body but identifies as a man which understandably causes him quite a bit of grief. J has to deal the strain that this puts on his life and all the normal problems that come with teenaged life as well.

The Good: I had been a bit worried that it would be hard to sympathize with J, not because of their gender but because of the urban, more gritty setting (which has given me trouble empathizing with characters before) but that turned out to be a non-issue. J was so well written that it was very easy to sympathize with his problems, despite how little we have in common. The story managed to flesh out its entire cast and really show that there is more to a person than their gender. The plot was also complicated enough to be believable and not everything was neatly resolved but it managed to feel realistic, happy, and satisfying which is rather hard to pull off.

The Bad: We're taught that life isn't always good so it's actually a little hard to believe that J does manage to have a happy life by the end, it's realism that doesn't seem realistic which isn't bad but is odd to think about. That aside, I really didn't have many problems with the book. It did take me some time to get into the groove with it, partially since I was in the odd position of knowing a little more about transgender people than J did, but once the story got going it moved along very well. 

In short, the book is not only a much needed book (try counting the number of other prominent transgender character in YA books, I can only come up with two) but it's also an excellently written book that I would suggest to anyone who likes realistic fiction. I'll certainly be keeping an eye out to see if the author writes anymore since I would love to see what else they can cover.

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