Leo is the new kid at school. Angsty and mysterious, everyone thinks he’s a criminal. He tries to avoid making friends, much to the dismay of his therapist. David, who has always been bullied and assumed to be gay, is ready for another year of misery and he still hasn’t told his parents he wants to be a girl. No one knew. When Leo suddenly defends David at lunch, everything changes. Leo and David develop a mismatched bond, but they have more in common than they think.
Williamson clearly dedicated time to her research and character development. I felt connected to both Leo and David. Leo’s frustrations with switching schools, his disjointed home life…I felt compassion for him. With David, I was so intrigued by how he chose to disclose (or not) his true, trans*, identity. I couldn’t decide if I wanted him to tell his parents or not. How would they react?!
David slowly lets readers into his life when he’s alone. He wears mother’s nightgown, a wig, and watches YouTube videos about make-up application. There are more examples, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. For me, it truly felt like hearing David’s experience first-hand, like I was in on privileged, sacred information. This is what was powerful. However, at times it was overshadowed by high school drama.
What I didn’t like was some of the drama with rumors, parties, running away, and who will show up to the dance. It seemed so juvenile for such a mature book. However, and I cannot speak from experience, I imagine this is what it is like for trans* teens. Caught between stereotypical youth and identity development beyond their years. There is so much else I am still processing.
I would give it a 3/5 because it prompted me to do my own research and reflection. For teens, I would also rate it 4/5 because it has just enough YA teen drama to keep their attention while educating them on social justice.
This review was originally published on the author’s website The Accidental Iowan. It is re-posted here with her permission.