F2M: THE BOY WITHIN by Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What happens when who you are on the inside clashes with what you are on the outside?

All adolescents face the quest for identity, but gender change complicates ‘coming of age’.

School-leaver Skye plays guitar in her all-girl band, The Chronic Cramps. Making her name in the punk music scene is easier than FTM (female to male) transitioning: from Skye to Finn, from girl to man. At the school reunion, Finn faces victimisation, but challenges the bullies.

Uncovering genetic mysteries about family heritage tears the family apart. Gran’s loved sibling Al was also Alberta. Transgender identity is more than hormones and surgery, it’s about acceptance. Going public, Finn sings FTM lyrics on TV.

With a little help from bemused mates and parents who don’t want to lose a daughter, but who love their teenager, Finn is transitioning.

This is a fantastic, groundbreaking novel - I think the fact that one of the writers is trans himself adds to the authenticity of the novel and the issue of gender transitioning was dealt with honestly. Hopefully this is a novel that will both entertain and educate teenaged readers.

The elements of Skye/Finn's life in the novel outside of his gender transition - the punk music, zines, blogs - all added greatly to the novel. His situation in the novel - having finished school but not yet employed or studying further - is not one often seen in YA novels, but one that reflects the lives of a lot of older teenagers. It's an in-between life stage, which also reflects Skye/Finn's in-between gender issues.

I think teenagers will be able to relate to Skye/Finn in that everyone feels to some degree unhappy with their appearance and different on the inside to the way they appear physically. Skye/Finn's dilemma is just a bit more extreme than being unhappy with your weight or hair colour.

I felt that we didn't get a strong enough sense of the other characters in Skye/Finn's life. I think because we were so much in his head, we never really got to know the other characters enough. I would have liked to find out more about Skye/Finn's friends, as well as finding out more about the really big events in Skye/Finn's transition - it would have been great for those elements to be developed slightly further.

I strongly recommend this book to people who love GLBT fiction, and teenaged (and older) readers looking for an enlightening, funny, fast and original read.

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