“My birth name is Elizabeth, but I’m a guy. Gabe. My parents think I’ve gone crazy, and the rest of the world is happy to agree with them, but I know I’m right…I know there are ways to match [my brain and body] up, though I have no access to any of those ways right now, plus everything costs a ton of money, which sucks...I also know people think I'm an ISSUE, and that gets really old. Any time THOSE SCARY TRANS PEOPLE come up, everybody flips out...I get it, it's the craziest thing in the world, but it's not gross and wrong, it just is, so why do people lose their minds over it?"
This Stonewall award winning novel centers on Gabe at the end of his senior year of high school. He has recently come out as transgender (he was born female but identifies as male) to his family and best friend, but is still trying to navigate coming out to his radio mentor, John, and the rest of his small town community.
The novel is a self-aware first person narrative, which is helpful for people who may be less familiar with being transgender. Gabe’s coming out process is the center of the action, so the tension between not wanting to care what the world thinks of him with actually facing society – a society that is often scary, violent, prejudice, and ignorant – is central. Being in the middle of coming out and transitioning allows the reader to gain knowledge as Gabe discovers more about himself. For example, Gabe describes using a chest-compression binder, buying a stand-to-pee prosthetic, and thinking about the gender presentation of his voice and mannerisms. The most insightful part of the novel is Cronn-Mills’ various depictions of people’s reactions, particularly Gabe’s mother. After calling Gabe "Elizabeth" (it’s unclear whether it’s accidental or purposeful), they get into an argument that shows the pain his mom is feeling and the misunderstandings about each other they have each been holding inside.
It also has all the things familiar to all YA novels: loving the wrong person, not understanding how sex works or if one should be having it, picking a path for the future, and trying to escape a small town. For a reader looking for a realistic young adult novel, there are definitely better ones out there. For a reader looking for a realistic young adult novel about a FTM trans guy, this is a great one to pick.