“Girl mans up” M-E Girard

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 6, 2016. Harper Collins. 373 p.

girl-mans-up“Girl mans up” is a coming of age story with a twist. Pen, a young teen, has always identified as a boy. Ever since she was a little girl, she dressed as a boy, played with boys, and really thought she was a boy. Her old-fashioned immigrant Portuguese parents assumed she’d outgrow her tomboyish ways, but their disappointment and anger grew as they demanded she show them proper “respeito” (respect.)

Unable to accept the girly mold they want her to fill, and lacking courage to completely forge a manly mold of her own, Pen takes readers on a journey of self-discovery to find a girlfriend and finally “man up” to become the person she was meant to be. Her story helps readers understand the struggles felt by young trans teens beginning to truly self identify. It also shows the importance of having friends and family with whom these teens can feel safe as they navigate through uncharted territory in their quest to have “respeito” for themselves.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

“The other boy” M.G. Hennessey

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 20, 2016. Harper. 234 p.

theotherboyShane and his best friend Josh are in sixth grade. Video games and baseball consume their every waking moment, and girls are making an appearance. Even though his dad hasn’t made too many attempts to be part of his life or to come for visits after his parents divorce, Shane is doing just fine without him. When he and his mom left San Francisco for Los Angeles three years ago, Shane never looked back. With his days filled with baseball, his friendship with Josh, and designing his very own graphic novel, he is finally getting to become the person he always knew he should be.

Despite his rosy outside life, Shane is hiding a secret that would change everything about his life if anyone ever found out about it. With his secret getting closer to exposure every day Shane will soon learn that truth comes with a price, and will have to decide if he is willing to pay it.

Once I started reading “The other boy” I couldn’t put it down, and finished it in one sitting. Hennessey’s young readers have the opportunity to learn about the many difficulties and challenges, as well as the hopes and fears, faced by transgender boys and girls. Through reading Shane’s story in this finely crafted novel, it is hoped they will learn acceptance and tolerance. Every middle school and public library should have a copy of “The other boy” in its collection.

Highly recommended for ages 11-14.


“All we had: A Novel” Annie Weatherwax

5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. To be published August 5, 2014. Scribner.

AllWeHadRuth starts her story in June 2005 when she was thirteen years old. At that time, she and her extremely beautiful mother Rita were living with Phil, another of her mother’s many boyfriends. Times were tough, and Rita’s many low-paying jobs were never enough to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. At a young age, Ruth learned to eat out of trashcans, steal food, endure hunger pangs and sleep in their ratty old car. She’d learned to know her mother’s many moods, including the ones she used to entice men so they could have a place to live. Though their lives had always been rough, love kept them close.

Deciding to make a new life for themselves they robbed Phil and took off traveling as far as their money would take them, landing in a small town called Fat River where, for the first time in their lives, they found love and acceptance. Mel, the friendly owner of the only gas station and restaurant in town, gave Rita a job waitressing and a place to live while Ruth went to school and worked as a dishwasher. Peter Pam, his cross-dressing waitress nephew, became her best friend and voice of reason.

Within a few months, they had enough saved to rent a house. Soon a smooth-talking salesman named Vick Ward convinced Rita she had good credit and could own her own home, so she signed his paperwork. That was the beginning of the end for them, as the economy soon took a turn for the worse. Local businesses began to fold, waitressing slowed, and they couldn’t keep up with the mortgage. Soon, Rita and Ruth found themselves facing another crisis in their lives. With time running out, Rita makes the only decision she can to ensure their survival. Unfortunately, it turns out not to be one of her wisest choices, which leaves her to make an even costlier decision that will cost more than they’d ever lost in their lives.

“All we had” is a beautifully written, honest, funny, sad, heart-breaking, poignant novel of what can happen when someone has to continually live at the end of their rope and what they have to do to survive. The question “what should you do when you’re at the end of your rope?” followed by the answer “tie a knot and keep hanging on” is Ruth and Rita’s life story. However, what do you do when that knot loosens and you find yourself slipping?

The ugly side of poverty, along with the beauty of hope offered to those slipping off their ropes, are fully revealed in “All we had.” Ruth and Rita’s story shows that life can knock you down, but you have to keep moving forward the best way you can.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“If you could be mine” Sara Farizan

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published August 20, 2013. Algonquin. 247 pp.

IfYouCouldBeMineSeventeen-year-old Sahar feels like her world is ending. At the age of 6, she told her maman she was going to marry Nasrin, her best friend. Nasrin is beautiful and rich, while Sahar’s father barely makes a living building furniture. It has been years since Sahar made her promise to her mother, but she and Nasrin have managed to keep their relationship a secret from everyone. That’s all about to change.

When Nasrin gets engaged, Sahar is desperate to break up the impending nuptials. She is sure if she became a man they could marry, as the Iranian government allows transsexual operations. All she’d have to do is tell a psychiatrist she was born in the wrong body and everything would be legal. If they tried to bring their relationship out into the open, their love would be considered a crime against Allah with beatings, arrest and death by hanging if they were caught. However, nothing is as easy as it appears to be.

Farizan’s descriptions of Sahar’s search for peace in the midst of uncertainty, and the intense love she shows for Nasrin are very realistic. In addition, her portrayal of Iran’s closeted gay society, along with the difficulties faced by women in Iran’s unequal society, are believable and eye opening.

Readers aged 14 and older will learn much from “If you could be mine.”


“Almost Perfect” Brian Katcher

Delacorte Press, 2009. Hardcover. 360 pp.

Logan is expecting his senior year of high school to be a bust. In his tiny town, and even tinier high school, he’ll now have to watch the love of his life who selfishly broke his heart go through her daily life without him by her side. He has no recourse to soothe his agony except for his daily track workouts.

Everything changes when he meets Sage, a new girl who is different, funny, quirky, very cute, yet shy and seemingly scared of her parents. Suddenly, his broken heart is healed as Logan finds himself falling for Sage and wanting to help her with whatever secrets she seems to be hiding. Gradually they warm to each other and, after a few months, he dares to kiss her and feels full of new possibilities – until Sage reveals her big secret. She’s really a boy.

Logan is disgusted, and pushes Sage out of his life. He doesn’t want anyone to think he’s gay, and is angry at her for tricking him. However, he gradually begins to realize their friendship means more to him than what others think, and feels like he might even love her. Unfortunately, what others think has a way of weighing on his mind more than he’d planned and, when Sage really needs his help, Logan is nowhere to be found.

Katcher uses humor and drew on real life teen experiences to write this very touching book for transgender teens showing the problems and experiences they face on a daily basis which include loneliness, suicidal thoughts and rejection. Website resources are included in the Authors Note.

While reading this book, I alternately laughed out loud or reached for a tissue, depending on the situation. Sage is a very believable and lovable character who will, hopefully, make readers see the transgender teen in a whole new light.

Recommended for grades 9-12.

“I am J” by Cris Beam

Little Brown and Company, 2011

It was confusing enough for J to be be half Puerto Rican and half Jewish, that trying to figure out why he was born in the wrong body was something else to add to the mix. Ever since he was 3 years old, J wanted to do things boys did. As he got older and began to hit puberty, he hated his body even more wearing layers of clothing and cutting his hair to hide his femaleness. He is not Jenifer. He is J.

“I am J” tells the story of young 17 year old J, desperately wishing for a male body and confused over why he was born as a girl. Once he learns testosterone is the answer to his problems, J is fixated. He wants to change his body but, while doing so, faces the rejection of those he holds dear. As he tries to educate them, showing he has not changed even if his body will eventually change, J also educates himself about what his new role will be and what his future will hold. A good read for grades 9-12.