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.