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Happy Families

3.35  ·  Rating Details ·  382 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
Teenage twins Ysabel and Justin Nicholas are lucky. Ysabel's jewelry designs have already caught the eyes of the art world and Justin's intelligence and drive are sure to gain him entrance into the most prestigious of colleges. They even like their parents. But their father has a secret—one that threatens to destroy the twins' happy family and life as they know it.

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Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
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(showing 1-30)
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Ysabel and Justin are twins, and they've had really happy and comfortable lives. That is until their father broke the news that he's really a transsexual, and now things have spun out of control.

Davis's story was really promising, and the premise was interesting, but I found the execution wasn't as engaging or as strong as it could have been. I think using dual narrators hurt the story; I never got to actually know either Ysabel nor Justin, and I never got to know their father or mother. There
Richie Partington
Mar 02, 2012 Richie Partington rated it it was amazing
Richie’s Picks: HAPPY FAMILIES by Tanita S. Davis, Knopf, May 2012, 288p., ISBN: 978-0-375-86966-2

“We can work it out.
We can work it out.”
-- Lennon/McCartney

“Ysabel stares fixedly at the tabletop. My father smiles vaguely at the waitress, leaned away from the table so she can bustle around him, but there’s a stiffness to his face. The slope of his shoulders telegraphs hurt, and I look down at my plate, wishing I was hungry, wishing that we were just all here for real, being together like before
Ms. Yingling
Jan 31, 2012 Ms. Yingling rated it really liked it
Ysabel and Justin both have their own interests, but enjoy hanging out with their supportive family. The book starts with them all at one of Ysabel’s art shows, but the next chapter is set much later. The twins’ father has moved out, their mother is stressed, and they don’t want anyone to know what has happened. However, their mother feels they must deal with it, and sends them to stay with their father for spring break so that they can be with him... and come to terms with the fact that there f ...more
Dec 19, 2011 Ashley rated it really liked it
Shelves: review-copy

The story here is of two twins trying to come to accept and come to terms with the fact that their father is a transgendered person.

There is a lot of emotion in this story and it always felt honest and real, never gimmicky or forced or phony. I very rarely cry unless a character dies, but there was a scene or two that had my eyes watering because their pain and confusion was just so intense and just there.

The book is narrated by both twins, Justin and Ysabel. I often like dual narrations
Abby Johnson
Jan 02, 2012 Abby Johnson rated it liked it
Twins Ysabel and Justin have a pretty good idea about where their lives are headed. Ysabel is an artist and aiming to show her glasswork in some upcoming shows and ultimately go to art school. Justin is master of the debate team and his five-year plan includes getting in to Stanford. But nothing could prepare them for the curveball their dad throws them: he's a transgender person, enjoys dressing in women's clothing, and he's moving out. When Ysabel and Justin are forced to spend their spring br ...more
Aug 16, 2012 Timothy rated it it was ok
I chose this book literally by its cover - didn't even know it was about trans issues (of which I care a little [just a little] bit more above average about] or anything. It was... OK. I felt a little uneasy about the fact that it really seems like the author researched the topic pretty well, but, if I had to guess, has never actually had a personal relationship with any transgender individual. Because of this, there was some unexpected - and possibly outdated? - word usage, strangely clinical a ...more
I was drawn to this book because the subject matter is not something that is commonly written about in African American teen fiction. This issues book was a decent effort and will probably be helpful to other families going through a similar situation. As for me, I could not wait for this book to be over. It's told in alternating chapters in the voice of 16-year-old twins, Justin and Ysabel and shares the aftermath after their lives are turned upside down when they learn their father is transgen ...more
Jun 10, 2012 Sara rated it it was amazing
I took this book to music camp and, despite my Code Name Verity advertising, this was the book that my room mates decided they liked. So I am very sorry Elizabeth Wein, but musicians prefer crazy families to WW2. I hope you are happy Tanita S. Davis because I failed to make people read my mother's book, although about five people in my room told me they were buying the book/buying it on kindle/etc.

Easy to read, interesting plotline, funny in places :)
Comes off as bibliotherapy. Still- there are interesting themes here of the role of shame and societal expectations in our behaviors.
Ysabel and Justin go to their small church with their family, they go to Christian High School.
This narrates (mainly) the week they start to come to terms with Christine- their Dad Christopher's alter ego. Christopher has kept his feminine persona separate from the family all along. When Christine is discovered, he retreats and moves away. The kids miss him, are c
Sam Poole
Jun 05, 2014 Sam Poole rated it really liked it
Short and stripped to the essentials. Excellent book and perspective. Not many books about middle class, religious, trans POC, especially in the YA canon. There is no happy ending or resolutions- just slight promises of returns to a new normalcy and comfort. Ysabel and Justin can be petulant but their imperfections and their fathers insecurities are appealing and realistic. Definitely recommend for a variety of reAsons.
Apr 05, 2012 Tammi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
*ARC from NetGalley*

Happy Families is undoubtedly an 'issue' book. I say this because, at 240 pages in length, there isn't much time for the author to delve into anything besides the issue at hand, and it feels designed to help young adults through a similar experience, rather than to offer a thrilling read. However, the former goal is an admirable one and Happy Families did make me understand the issue of transgender people much better than I did before.

Happy Families is narrated by twins Ysabe
May 11, 2012 TheBookSmugglers rated it really liked it
Teenage twins Ysabel and Justin are struggling with the revelation that their father has recently come out as a Male to Female transgender person. Their family has been strongly affected by it, their father has moved away and their personal lives are in shambles as they don’t really understand what it all means. Now it’s spring break and the two are expected to spend the week with their father so they can talk, using this short time together to try and figure things out. The three go to therapy ...more
GRPLTeens Grand Rapids Public Library
Appeal Characteristics: transgendered people, family relationships, sibling relationships, high school, society issues, TRANS-youth, adjustments, coping

There were some things I really loved about this book...and some other writing issues that I didn't. The subject aspect and execution was done well and realistically as these twin siblings struggle through their Dad's transition to be from Chris to Christine. I especially liked the father and son struggle that was highlighted and the other issues
Jan 16, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: realistic, glbt
Appeal Characteristics: transgendered people, family relationships, sibling relationships, high school, society issues, TRANS-youth, adjustments, coping

There were some things I really loved about this book...and some other writing issues that I didn't. The subject aspect and execution was done well and realistically as these twin siblings struggle through their Dad's transition to be from Chris to Christine. I especially liked the father and son struggle that was highlighted and the other issues
Laura Salas
Apr 19, 2012 Laura Salas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult, loved
OK, I see that the jacket copy and blurbs don't reveal what the family secret is, even though it comes out fairly early in the book and is alluded to in the dedication (or maybe the epigram--don't remember which) and on the cover. But if you don't want to know what the main conflict of this novel is, stop reading here!

Twins Justin and Ysabel are high school seniors with a family-shattering secret. (view spoiler)
Brunette Librarian
Told from the viewpoints of two siblings, Ysabel and Justin, Happy Families asks what it truly means to have a happy family. Can things drastically change or is a family a cookie cutter of what we think it is? Ysabel and Justin, twins, see things through very different eyes. They both feel as if they have a good family, Ysabel is artistic and a free spirit while Justin is the golden child, worrying about grades. All that changes the night Justin sees his dad in the audience of his trivia team’s ...more
Oct 03, 2012 Clementine rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, ya, 2012, glbtq

Ysabel and Justin are fairly lucky twins. Ysabel is showing tremendous promise as an artist and Justin has a bright future in one of the country’s best colleges. Their family is close-knit and pretty happy. But then their father’s long-held secret becomes public, and it feels as though their family is being torn apart. Both conflicted, sad, and hurt about their father’s reveal, the twins struggle to come to terms with their new life. A spring break spent with their dad is planned to help them co
Molly (Conan the Librarian) Crumbley
On the surface, teen twins Justin and Ysabel Nicholas have it made: brainy Justin is making a name for himself in the world of high school debates and artistic Ys has been catching a lot of attention for her creative glasswork and jewelry. Surrounded by the love and support of their parents and friends, they seem to living in the most ideal of happy families. And then they discover a secret that threatens to unravel everything they have.

Seemingly overnight, normal dad Chris admits to his family
Tarah Schaeffer
May 29, 2012 Tarah Schaeffer rated it really liked it
The Goddess Test is the debut novel for author Aimee Carter. For those who like Greek Mythology and/or a not cheesy love story, you will enjoy this book!

Kate’s mother has cancer and despite all the doctors best efforts they have run out of options. So, to fulfill he mothers dieing wish the two of them move back to her home town of Eden. Kate almost immediately makes enemies with the schools reigning queen bee Ava and is tricked into going to a late night party. Unfortunately it is not a party a
Dec 01, 2013 Neha rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen-fiction
This story is about the life of transgendered person and his happy family. It’s a completely different story. Characters are well developed and reliable. Teenage twins, Ysabel is an artist, Justin is a star debater. But when Justin sees a woman at his debate event who looks just like their father, he feels that their father has been keeping a secret from them, a secret that will change their life and they both don't know how to deal with it. They feel that their entire lives have been a lie when ...more
Jul 07, 2012 Hayden rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teen, queer
Gr 9 Up-Twins Ysabel and Justin Nicholas seem to have it all. She is a talented artist, he a star debater as a freshman. But when Justin sees a woman at his debate event who looks just like their father, their happy life comes to an abrupt end. Their dad is transgender; he feels complete only when living as a woman, and the teens don't know how to deal with it. He leaves, and their mother becomes a shell of her former self.Å Feeling that their entire lives have been a lie, Justin and Ysabel are ...more
May 29, 2012 Andrew rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbtq

I really don't have anything to criticize about it, I think this book was very good and seems to be an accurate portrayal of how a transitioning parent affects the family. I also enjoyed how Ysabel and Justin's father didn't completely jump right into Christine, as this is also a realistic situation for a transperson, and it takes quite a while until you can pass and be secure in your preferred gender.

It was also really nice how it was told from the point of the twins, and how it went back and

Jun 10, 2014 Chrissie rated it liked it
Happy Famlies filed the Nicholls family as they struggle to come to terms with the descison of family patriarch Christopher to begin dressing as a, woman with the long term goal of living life as Christine. Twins Ysabel and Jacob are forced to spend spring break with their father, and as time goes by build a deeper understand of the change.

Happy Famalies was a really touching book about the adjustments that come from having a transgendered family member. Ysabel and Jacob are very real teenagers
Justin and Ysabel are twins, and between them they have pretty much everything: Justin is rocking the debate team and Ysabel's glass beads and jewelry are catching the eyes of art schools. Their mom's catering business is doing well. And their dad... they just found out that their dad has been keeping a secret: he feels like a woman, and he plans to start living as one. Ysabel and Justin are shocked and unsure how to react, as the father they've known all their lives isn't who they thought. How ...more
Dec 05, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, glbt
Twins Ysabel and Justin are struggling to understand their father's new life as a transgender person. They are hurt, confused, and angry - and they are right to be. Their father disappeared for 6 months, and never really gave them any idea of what to expect during the 1 week they are forced to spend with him. There are unwelcome surprises, like daily therapy sessions and a rafting trip with a local trans- family support group. There are good things too, like new friends and the hope of staying t ...more
Lisa Delaine Youngblood
Told from the alternating first person points of view of twin teenagers, this novel unfolds as a family tries to cope with the knowledge that the father is and has been for a long, long time a cross-dresser.

While much thought has been given to the information in the story, the writing itself is pedestrian at best. Though the twins deal with the shock in different ways, their voices are virtually the same. I often forgot which of the two characters was telling the story.

Their parents make incre
Beth Dailey Kenneth
Aug 15, 2013 Beth Dailey Kenneth rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Izza Haziqah
Dec 08, 2012 Izza Haziqah rated it really liked it
Four stars! I honestly this book.

Well, it lacks character depth. Like one time Justin is all annoyed then the next he's totally okay. And Ysabel isn't so consistent on her moods either. Plus, sub-plots didn't really appeal much to me. Actually, the whole plot was a little bland.

But the reason why I liked it enough to give four stars is that I can truly relate to the family arguments, even despite the lack of depth in characters. I snicker at points where Ysabel and Justin tag-teaming against th
Ysabel and Justin were sure of where their lives were going until their father's secret was exposed and their lives changed.

Sometimes I felt like the twins' personalities were made to fit the situation that the author wanted instead of fitting the characterization that was set although this did not take away from the story and the message that the author set out to send. Overall, (view spoiler)
Claire Scott
Pedantic but an excellent addition to LGBTQ subject lists and resource lists from family orgs like COLAGE. I like Tanita Davis's work generally, and really appreciate her focus on telling stories that have been untold or underrepresented. There's a lot that's good here. Nice solid back matter, including a glossary of vocabulary and "what not to say" -- smart! Much more useful and likely to be put into practice by both teens and adults than another set of addresses for places like The Trevor Proj ...more
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