Ciel Book Review

Summary: Ciel is excited to start high school. A gender non-conforming trans kid, Ciel has a YouTube channel and dreams of getting a better camera to really make their mark. Ciel can always rely on their best friend, Stephie, a trans girl who also happens to be a huge nerd. But their friendship begins to feel distant when Stephie makes it clear she wants the fact that she’s trans to be less visible now that they’re in high school. While navigating this new dynamic with Stephie, Ciel is also trying to make a long-distance relationship work with their boyfriend Eiríkur, who just moved back to Iceland. Add to the mix a cute swim star named Liam, and Ciel’s life is becoming more complicated by the minute!

Thoughts and Themes: Thank you to Netgalley and Second Story Press for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my review.

I find it important when reading middle grade to keep in mind the audience it was written for. In this case this book is written for ages – and it is very apparent throughout the book which is a great thing. Something that did throw me off about this book was how many opportunities this book had to go deeper into certain topics but it only touched the surface. I think it would have been better if it focused on one thing and not many little things going on in Ciel’s life.

Something that is brought up in this book is the difference in experiences between a non-binary and a binary trans person. Through Ciel and Stephie’s experiences in school and with their friends you see the difference in how they interact with the world and also with each other. I think that the distinction between the two is important to include because it is not just a different experience but also they each view their trans identity differently.

Something else they show by having these different characters is the difference between a trans person who is clearly trans and one who is stealth. J think that this distinction is important to dhowcase in order to show the privilege someone has in others not knowing you are trans. I recognize there are many layers that go into how someone is seen by society and the way they wish to be seen yet I find it important to recognize the privilege that can come with society thinking your cisgender.

I like how Ciel is also an YouTube and how that plays a role in their life. I thought it was important to view their reaction to negative comments and transphobia online. I thought their response was good for their age and love the way they explain those comments to their brother.

There’s several instances of transphobia throughout the book yet most of these moments explain why they are wrong. There were moments in which Ciel would explain to the reader why something was transphobic or they would try and insert themselves in those moments to correct someone.

While I did enjoy this book a d find it good the intended age range, I do feel like the end is unfinished. There was no real plot and the problems that did arise didn’t really solve themselves. The end felt like there was more of the story that needed to be told and so many of the problems that arose were either dismissed or not fully solved.

Characters: I like each of the characters that are introduced into the book and like that a majority of the main characters are transgender. Ciel is a latinx non binary person, Stephie is a trans girl, and Liam is a trans boy. I found each of the characters likable but would have liked to see a little bit more of their development.

Writing style: I like how Ciel explains a lot of the terminology that they use as words are introduced into the book. I thought that was a great way to educate the audience without distracting from the story. I also thought it was a good way to introduce identities as they appeared in the story through the different characters.

You can pre-order this book at Eso Won Books or look for it at your local library coming September 15th.

Rick by Alex Gino Book Review

Summary: Rick’s never questioned much. He’s gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff’s acted like a bully and a jerk. He’s let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn’t given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out.

But now Rick’s gotten to middle school, and new doors are opening. One of them leads to the school’s Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together. Rick wants his own life to be that … understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones.

As they did in their groundbreaking novel George, in Rick, award-winning author Alex Gino explores what it means to search for your own place in the world … and all the steps you and the people around you need to take in order to get where you need to be.

Thoughts and Themes: I finished this book all in one day as I could not pull myself away from it. I love how lighthearted this book is and I think it is a great read for children ages 9-13. While the book is intended for that age I also think that adults would enjoy this book and that they could learn from this book.

This book took me back to my middle school years and it was so easy to remember moments during those years. This is a book that I would have loved during those years as I spent every day in a teacher’s classroom or the library. I remember wanting to read LGBTQ+ books in middle school and having one shelf to pick from so I loved how the students wanted to add those books to their library.

I like that this book touches on friendship and what that entails. I thought it was great that Rick built this relationship with his grandpa in which he explains to him what kind of people he should surround himself with. I love that he never pressures Rick to throw away his best friend but everyone waits for Rick to make his own decision regarding Jeff.

Characters: Throughout the book you get introduced to several characters which I mostly enjoy. This book has asexual and questioning representation through the main character, it has a side character who is transgender, and many queer side characters.

There is only one character that I had a hard time with even if I understood why he had to be that way. I could not stand Jeff and how much of a jerk he was throughout this whole book.

Another character that is introduced in this book is Rick’s grandpa, Grandpa Ray, who I really enjoyed. I loved the interactions between Rick and his grandpa and how Rick developed as a character through those interactions.

Another character who I really enjoyed was the teacher who was the advisor to the Rainbow Spectrum. I thought it was so important that he went back and apologized for his error and did the research about pronouns. I thought it was a great way to show the proper response to making an error and how to move forward after that.

Writing Style: This book is told in third person and through the perspective of Rick and what is happening in his world. I like that each chapter is short and it transitions to the next very easily. I also like that there is one central plot to the story and other things occur throughout the book that add to that plot.

You can get this book at Eso Won Books or look for it at your local library.

Books by Trans/Nonbinary Authors

Since it’s pride month I thought that I would create separate lists as reading suggestions for you all this month. I thought it was best to do this that way I could recommend so many authors for you to enjoy rather than only having a select few on here.

All clickable links take you a page where you can purchase the books from Eso Won Books, a Black owned bookstore in Los Angeles.

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson 

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock 

In 2011, Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Those twenty-three hundred words were life-altering for the People.com editor, turning her into an influential and outspoken public figure and a desperately needed voice for an often voiceless community. In these pages, she offers a bold and inspiring perspective on being young, multicultural, economically challenged, and transgender in America.

Welcomed into the world as her parents’ firstborn son, Mock decided early on that she would be her own person—no matter what. She struggled as the smart, determined child in a deeply loving yet ill-equipped family that lacked the money, education, and resources necessary to help her thrive. Mock navigated her way through her teen years without parental guidance, but luckily, with the support of a few close friends and mentors, she emerged much stronger, ready to take on—and maybe even change—the world.

This powerful memoir follows Mock’s quest for identity, from an early, unwavering conviction about her gender to a turbulent adolescence in Honolulu that saw her transitioning during the tender years of high school, self-medicating with hormones at fifteen, and flying across the world alone for sex reassignment surgery at just eighteen. With unflinching honesty, Mock uses her own experience to impart vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of trans youth and brave girls like herself.

Despite the hurdles, Mock received a scholarship to college and moved to New York City, where she earned a master’s degree, enjoyed the success of an enviable career, and told no one about her past. She remained deeply guarded until she fell for a man who called her the woman of his dreams. Love fortified her with the strength to finally tell her story, enabling her to embody the undeniable power of testimony and become a fierce advocate for a marginalized and misunderstood community. A profound statement of affirmation from a courageous woman, Redefining Realness provides a whole new outlook on what it means to be a woman today, and shows as never before how to be authentic, unapologetic, and wholly yourself. 

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender 

From Stonewall and Lambda Award–winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro 

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore 

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.