I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of I am J by Cris Beam. I did not receive any compensation for my review.
Summary: “Hola, Jeni.”
J spun. His stomach clenched hard, as though he’d been hit. It was just the neighbor lady, Mercedes. J couldn’t muster a hello back, not now; he didn’t care that she’d tell his mom he’d been rude. She should know better. Nobody calls me Jeni anymore.
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.
I Am J is a very intense and engaging read about a bi-racial teen’s gender transition. Beam’s story provides great insight to life a transgender teen. This is an issue that prior to reading this book I did not know much about. Fortunately, as well as writing an engaging story, Beam also takes the time to explain the issues.
However, I was puzzled about why J, who has known since a small child that he is a boy born with girl parts, waited until he was 18 to seek support. All in all I found this to be well written, with well developed characters. Though the main story deals with J’s life as a transgender teen, it also covers all the usual challenges of just being a teen – including difficulty getting a long with parents. J’s parents are not very likable. Not only do they not understand J, they seem incapable of giving him any support. Perhaps this lends to the authenticity of the story, as teens are often misunderstood by their parents.
This is a good read for not only teens but parents as well. Not only is it entertaining, but it provides some valuable insight as well.
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