Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I Am J - Cris Beam

Title: I Am J
Author: Cris Beam
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2011 (Hardcover)
Length: 326 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: July 2, 2011
Finished: July 3, 2011

From Goodreads.com:
J always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was; a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a "real boy" and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible - from his family, from his friends...from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he's done hiding - it's time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.

An inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path - readers will recognize a part of themselves in J's struggle to love his true self.

I've read a fair bit (though still not nearly enough) of YA books with gay and lesbian characters, but I've never come across one that involved a transgender character until now.

J was born Jenifer, a girl, but ever since he was little he's identified as male and struggled with the consequences of trying to be true to that. He constantly gets picked on by people that think he's a lesbian, and it doesn't help when he gets a crush on his female best friend, who doesn't understand his situation. In addition, J's ethnic Puerto Rican/Jewish family refuses to accept his desire to be true to himself, and they keep insisting that he act more feminine and won't even listen to him when he tries to suggest that he wants to sign up for testosterone injections to help make his transformation more authentic. When J's finally had enough, he decides to make it on his own whether his family or friends support him or not.

I love that there's finally a YA book about a character who is transgendered (an FTM specifically in this case). What J goes through is realistically portrayed, and I like how the author made J from an ethnic family, since that kind of circumstance is unique in itself (I'm from an Italian family and growing up we knew the worst thing you could be was any variety of GLBT because of how the family would react). His struggles are wonderfully real and I like how J wasn't the nicest person, cause really, enduring that kind of treatment day to day wouldn't exactly make a person warm and fuzzy.

Excellent book about the issue of transgendered teens and some of the struggles they face.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like how the cover looks like J's layered clothing that's talked about in the book, it's an interesting choice of image.

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