The cover of this book is a neutral gray hoodie, unzipped just a little. This intrigued me so I picked it up. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this book is about a transgender teen who calls himself J, trying to escape his given name Jeni and the high expectations his Jewish dad and Puerto Rican mom have for him–to go to college, to be a pretty girl. J has always felt that he wasn’t a girl, like his body might indicate, and hides behind two sports bras and at least 3 shirts. Getting his period is the worst ever. J has consciously tried to mimic men around him (in New York City), including how he holds a cigarette and how he walks. He’s intensely private, not sharing his photography (prospective college major?) with anyone.
J attends a party with his best friend Melissa, where he sees her flirting with a guy he deems unworthy of her, and they get into a fight. Combined with peer pressure, this is not a good situation for J, and he starts to skip school to get away.
After discovering chest binding on the internet and making his own binder, J begins to pass a little more easily, meeting a couple of girls from a different school at a Starbucks and beginning a flirtation with one of them, Blue. He also reads about T, testosterone, and sees this as a magical fix for all his problems. Of course it isn’t–changes aren’t instantaneous, and even if they were, the clinic rejects him. He can’t get T without being 18 or having parental consent and at least 3 months of therapy. However, the clinic does get him into a school for GLBT youth and into counseling. He’s able to tell his mom and Melissa about his situation, and finds himself considering sharing his art.
Beam worked for years with transgender teens and wrote this book to give a voice to an experience that is underrepresented. She is sympathetic to the rough situation that J, and others like him, find themselves in. Though the narrative is in the 3rd person, it is closely focused on J–he is present throughout, and his mental state is thoroughly illuminated. I found myself rooting for him immediately, and proud of the steps he takes towards being proud of the person that he is. Definitely an eye opener for me, and a good read.