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I am J

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  3,742 ratings  ·  419 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2011)
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Vone Savan
Identity is a daunting and controversial issue. For me, the dichotomous nature of identity became very prominent and tangible during my teenage years. As a teenager, I thought I knew so much about life, but at the same time, I felt so lost and confused. I was trying to find an identity, a purpose – any purpose – but not knowing exactly where to look. And in all honesty, I don’t think this feeling of searching for a purpose truly ever leaves us. I know I still feel it, even as an “adult.” For all...more
Brooke Johnson
I Am J is the story of J (born Jennifer) as he struggles against the social definition of gender. When I first heard of this novel, I was immediately interested: a struggle between one’s true identity and the identity given at birth. I thought it would be a fascinating read. It was. The story was interesting and the writing was well done.

But I didn’t connect to the characters. I couldn’t empathize with J, and I don’t think that it’s because I’m not transgendered (I have read several books where...more
Melinda
Assorted comments:
—the homophobia and misogyny was relentless and went more or less unaddressed ("omg, don't call me a lesbian, ANYTHING but a lesbian, gross" "a bunch of guys are sexually exploiting a 14-year-old girl in the other room? I don't care about that stupid bitch" "how dare you compare it to rape when I start making out with my non-consenting best friend while she's sleeping" "I was only attracted to you because I must have known you were secretly a man inside" etc.)
—the main characte...more
Shawnta
There are not many novels that are written for the NYC teens of color about issues of gender. Beam offers us a chance to introduce to teens the complexities of indentity, the ramifications of lying, and the integrity that is built when one is true to oneself.

This is a great read for the student with the hoodie on who sits in the back corner of the library, talking to no one, but always peering with one eye out towards the world, watching, wondering if anyone notices his/her stare. The overweigh...more
Christina
The first chapter or so I thought this was going to be a really lame book but it turned out to do a fine job not conforming or being too preachy. I eventually got invested in the main character and couldn't see where exactly the story was going, which felt natural not forced. Nice alternative YA book to the endless publication of fantasy lit and girls squealing over boys junk.
Loki (of Smartassgard)
I described this book to a friend as "the emotional equivalent of a hot steam bath, with an immediate roll in snow/cold water bath, and a body scrub. Repeatedly. With Ajax scrubbing cleanser." This sounds horrible, but it's not. It's cleansing the palette of the reader so the emotions come across as they are: raw, pure, undeniable. It was an uncomfortable process, but necessary for growth. The reason this isn't 5 stars (as expressed by other reviewers as well) is because of the unaddressed and q...more
Kaje Harper
This is the story of J, who was born Jenifer, but who has always been a boy. As J moves through his senior year of high school, he becomes more and more convinced that he has to find a place to make a stand. He needs a way to reduce the dissonance between the guy he is, and the girl people see on the outside. Unfortunately, not only is it nearly impossible to tell the people around him how he feels, but they are also pretty certain not to accept what he's going through. This is J's story of comi...more
Hilary
This is the story of J, a trans boy. He's also Puerto Rican and Jewish, which makes this book different than most of the others in the LGBTQ subtopic in YA lit, which mostly focuses on white kids. (Can't have too many diverse issues at once, you know!) Is it the most interesting plot in the world? No. But the author, who, given her personal history and experience, knows what the hell she's talking about, does a great job of narrating an experience that I, by definition, cannot be empathetic to,...more
Hderaps
Ever since I was little, I have always known that I was a girl. I am definitely not a "high maintenance" type of woman, but I have an inner girly-girl that will not quit. I cannot imagine what my life would have been like had I been born in a body that did not match the gender that I felt myself to be. I think it would be devastating.

Yet, this happens to people all of the time. They grow up feeling like their insides do not match their outsides. And, in our current society, the outsides are what...more
Serith
Quit after one chapter. 27 pages.

That's... a new record for me.

And I’m really sad right now because I SO badly wanted to read and relate with the main character; someone who knows what it’s like to question gender identity and put it to words on a page. I wanted a glimpse into a life that could have been my own if I wasn’t so closeted.

But it’s a little hard to relate when they are a huge jerk. J was just so grumpy and now I’m grumpy and rawr. I don’t want to be kindred spirits anymore.

It’s killi...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Interesting story told from the point of view of a girl who feels that she is really a boy, and who wants to take testosterone and surgically change into a male. For anyone who doesn't understand what transgender means, this story will make it clear. J is frustrated because she can't or is afraid to explain to people close to her how she feels, and isn't entirely clear on her feelings to begin with. Some people refer to her as lesbian, but that isn't the same thing. As the story progresses, J ma...more
Doret
Jeni was assigned the wrong gender at birth. In the sixth grade, Jeni starts going by J . Now a senior in high school, J knows he's transgender and wants to begin the transition to his rightful gender. We first meet J going to a party so his best friend Melissa wouldn't have to go alone. Since the party wasn't J's scene, it's not a great place to meet him. I felt the author through J tried to squeeze in as many facts about J and Melissa's family and friendship as possible. It felt forced and unn...more
Stephanie (Stepping out of the Page)
Wonderfully written and thought out, I Am J is certainly something that I'd recommend to others. There are few books out (that I'm aware of) that describe the thoughts and feelings of transgendered teenagers and it's good to see that there's one that's so authentic. This book really encapsulated how it must feel to be stuck in the wrong gendered body. J's thoughts and struggles seemed very real and it was interesting to see how his world and the people around him changed as he started his physic...more
Nicole
Jun 29, 2011 Nicole rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who needs a mild trans-education
Shelves: lgbt-etc, ya
It’s taken me months to write this review because I wanted it to be worth reading. Transgender representation in YA is such a delicate matter and I wanted to contribute something more than my usual “yeah, so it was pretty good” commentary.

Here goes.

I keep waiting for the day when a YA character will be incidentally trans, when the story will be about falling in love or solving a mystery and the protagonist just happens to be transgendered. This still qualifies as a “problem novel”, but it is abs...more
Lawral
Mar 02, 2011 Lawral rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: arc, ya, 2011
I was a little scared of this book. I knew that Beam had it in her to realistically portray the transgender experience, so my expectations were super high. I also knew that a book like this has the potential to be filled with well-meaning stereotypes in order to present the most inclusive picture: of trans folk, of Puerto Rican New Yorkers, of the dream of being a "real boy," and more. But my fears were unfounded; I loved this book. J really rang true to me as a character and as a transguy, and...more
Katja
To be honest, I felt like the author gathered facts and mathematical averages on trans men and put them all in one book and one character. It made for a very unorganized read, not creating an artistic whole or focusing on one central issue for the main character, but creating an "average trans man in his late teens" story, adding stuff just because it's a thing that happens to some trans people or trans men. I'm not articulating this very well, I'm sorry, but perhaps you get the point. I felt li...more
Christina G
I've generally avoided any YA fiction with trans characters, because I'd heard pretty negative things about the 5 or 6 available titles. But then a few thoughtful people on the internet wrote reviews saying that I Am J was different, and that it actually felt realistic, complex, and sensitive.

I still had my reservations going into this book, knowing that it was a white(?) cisgender woman writing about a biracial trans teen guy. But I ended up feeling pretty good about it by the end (of course, I...more
CD
Mar 28, 2011 CD rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everybody
This is the first book I have read Other than Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil that had a transgender character. J is the main character and is a transmale, although physically female. I found this book to be compelling and real. The struggle that J goes through, but his internal conflict, the familial conflict and the problems that arise with J's relationships with peers are told in such an unflinching and forthright manner that they seem honest, real and natural. I did not get that air...more
Ren
I was looking forward to this book, because I heard it was much better than some of the other books out there that have trans people as major characters (eg, Luna, Parrotfish, Almost Perfect, etc.) Unfortunately, I'm still left hanging. I'm yet to be completely satisfied by fiction concentrating on trans characters.

The author of I Am J has worked closely with transgender teens, and has family whom are trans, as well. This has worked to her advantage. The information in the book is solid, and, sp...more
Angela
An intense and necessary novel. While I am cisgendered, this certainly feels like an authentic story of one transgender teenager, and Beam is careful to point out in an author's note that this is a fictional story written by a cisgender author, albeit one based on extensive personal research.

I loved that, unlike many other LGBT novels, the angst and main conflict in this doesn't stem from J questioning his identity and freaking out over it - from page one J knows that he should have been born in...more
CiderandRedRot
After a somewhat slow start, this book comes into it's own as a story about identity, gender, ethnicity, family, and - well - how truly messy being a teenager really is. Whilst I always felt for J and his predicament, it was refreshing that at times he, and the characters around him, weren't always especially likable. The supporting cast were well drawn and, for the most part, they loved J wholeheartedly and wanted to support him in his goal to transition, to feel comfortable (finally) in his ow...more
Lydia
Cris Beam's book has received numerous accolades. Many of them from authors whose opinions I truly value. However, I found this book extremely disappointing.

I had trouble empathizing or in any way feeling for all of the characters in the book. Most disappointing was the main character who, by the middle of the book, I found to be overly self-indulgent and whiny. The best friend, Melissa, was not a well developed character and her most distinctive trait was revealed much too late in the book. In...more
Kat
A good, much-needed addition to the small but slowly-growing collection of YA Lit about transgender teens. Due to the quality of information contained within the story, I would recommend this one over Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger for anyone looking for a good (and eye-opening) story about a FTM trans teen. J, a 17-year-old mixed-race teen living in NYC, struggles to reveal his true self to his family and friends. J turns to photography as an outlet for expression, but like everything else abou...more
Mark
"Carolina paused. 'But you're still a kid, J. You don't know what you are yet. One day you want to be a veterinarian; the next, a photographer. How can you say you want to be a - a boy?'

'Mami -' How could he explain? It was like explaining the blood moving through his veins. It was constant, definite, nothing he controlled or chose. You could put all kinds of muscle and skin on top, and then add clothes and tattoos and makeup and hats, but nothing would change that blood."

J, born Jennifer, lives...more
Claire Scott
You know, I'm giving this four out of five stars, but really it's four and a half or four and three-quarters. The last little nagging lack of star comes from the fact that it feels a wooden in the prose and didactic... but in a really good way. And I can't even remember the last time I thought something like that. I'm passing my borrowed ARC along to a teen reader friend who's FTM, and I'm also hoping that he'll pass it on to some other young transguys he know for their reviews. I'm curious to s...more
Kalie
I Am J is an interesting, touching book by Cris Beam that follows the life of a transgender high school student. J has always felt that he is male but as he grew up his body betrayed him. In this book, we get to experience J’s journey to accepting himself and getting others around him to see him for who he truly is, a man.

I really enjoyed how this author tackled such a difficult subject and presented it in a way that allows people to learn about what being transgender is. While this is fiction,...more
Karly *The Vampire Ninja*
I had incredibly high hopes for this book. A novel centered on the struggles of a transgender teen should have been a slam dunk for me. When I first read about I Am J my thoughts were MUST READ, must read NOW and I almost instantly ran out and bought myself a copy.

However, I found the writing trite and lacking for the most part. For a novel centred on such an unbelievably delicate and painful subject matter I found Beam's writing glossy at best. I wanted to truly feel for J, and there were time...more
Nick
Why did I read it?

I just started another library science class this summer, and it is Children's Literature for a Diverse Society. I am J is a new book that just rolled across my desk, and it fits right along with the themes of my class.

What happened?

J might have been born a girl, Jeni, but he has known his entire life that it was a mistake. He knew that if gender was assigned, that his was assigned incorrectly. J has plodded through his life, stuck with a body that he hates and that continues t...more
Elijah Jacobson
I have nothing bad to say about this book.

Enjoyed the writing style, and the diverse number of characters that came along throughout the story.

Aside from just being a great fiction piece, it also taught me a lot that I didn't previously know about the transgender community. I love that the book also incorporated so many aspects of art into the various characters... from painting to photography to dance to poetry. There were also many great references to poets, which I will definitely have to loo...more
Andrew
Lol I thought the character was boy until late I realized it was a girl. The character name is Jenifer but he likes to be called J. He thinks he was born as a boy. He cuts his hair like one, dresses like one, acts like one. But sometimes people see him as a girl. His best friend Melissa cares about him and maybe likes him if he was a boy. His mom wants him to be a lesbian, until J searches up about transgender and a shot that could turn you into a man. He goes to a different town suddenly and me...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
YA LGBT Books: * August 2014 BotM 1 - I Am J *spoilers* 9 47 Aug 18, 2014 08:46PM  
What J thought of gays 3 31 Jun 09, 2014 03:24PM  
Does the book get better? 7 30 Jan 16, 2014 12:20PM  
My Story Book Club: Online Chat with Cris Beam, author of I Am J! 2 12 Jan 28, 2013 05:00PM  
My Story Book Club: Five Questions with Cris Beam, author of I Am J. 1 6 Jan 28, 2013 09:51AM  
My Story Book Club: Transgender Reading List - Cast your vote! 1 12 Jan 08, 2013 10:06AM  
My Story Book Club: Reading Schedule for I Am J 1 4 Jan 02, 2013 12:21PM  
  • Being Emily
  • Jumpstart the World
  • Parrotfish
  • How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity
  • Happy Families
  • Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie
  • Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
  • Crossing Lines
  • Sister Mischief
  • Kicked Out
  • Money Boy
  • Hello, Groin
  • Gemini Bites
  • Boyfriends with Girlfriends
  • f2m;the boy within
  • Sprout
  • Brooklyn, Burning
  • Between Mom and Jo
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CRIS BEAM is a journalist who has written for several national magazines as well as for public radio. She has an MFA in nonfiction from Columbia University and teaches creative writing at Columbia and the New School. She lives in New York.
More about Cris Beam...
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“People will see whatever they want to see. Parallax.” 8 likes
“I guess it's about what you have to give up to gain something else...Did you always have to give something up for a gain?” 7 likes
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