first of all, if you've picked up /Adam/ because you want to learn about "trans issues" or "the trans experience," put it down. there are way better b...morefirst of all, if you've picked up /Adam/ because you want to learn about "trans issues" or "the trans experience," put it down. there are way better books you can read by actual trans people, and you should give your dollars and attention to those writers.
I also would discourage you from reading it if you're looking for a cute YA romance, which I understand /Adam/ has been described as.
I would never say that anyone has to or even should read anything, unless you are my student and I assigned you a book and I would be caaaautious about assigning this one. this is one of those contexts where the star rating system goes out the window. there are a lot of reasons not to read this book, and there are a few reasons why some people might find it interesting to read (maybe get it from the library?), like as a cultural artifact.
I've been reading Ariel Schrag's early comics. she is one of the few people to ever really capture what it felt like to me, living in that time right on the cusp of the internet really taking over, when we still shared our deepest darkest on pieces of paper. granted, she's a few years older than me, and some of the details are different: she did comics, I did zines; she loved Juliette Lewis, I loved Julia Stiles, she enjoyed marijuana a lot more than I did (probably because she lived in Berkeley and I lived in Ohio). but also that feeling of publishing while events are still unfolding, of doing it for the process and knowing it won't be perfect and will embarrass you by this time next year. I get all the criticisms people have leveled at her novel /Adam/, but I am willing to not just throw it out the window solely for this reason.
it's a difference in expectations people have for queer literature: they want it to be static and definitional (dare I say representational / representative) when I read /Adam/ as Schrag working through some really difficult problems (problems that, it should be acknowledged, most people are loath to even recognize AS problems) within the queer / lesbian community around gender, specifically how gender and realness and maleness, not to mention desire and genitals and consent, get talked about. it's also probably important that the book is set in the recent past--2006, a more innocent time when The L Word was still on the air and nobody had heard of Tumblr.
in a lot of ways I would have felt better about /Adam/ if it were written from Gillian's perspective instead of Adam's, but that's really a different book I guess and I also think a huge part of Schrag's project here was one of empathy, of really trying to imagine what a relatively uninformed white cis het man would make of queer (mostly queer women's) community, how he would even interpret what was going on and figure out who people were and what their lexicon meant, how he would be read by them (a lot of characters seem to read Adam as a trans guy just because they are more used to having trans guys around than cis ones, and because why would most cis men even want to be in that space, unless they were bored teenagers with queer sisters living in a new city for the first time?), how he would find a way to BE in their spaces. which is actually a super interesting question. but should everyone have to consider a straight cis white dude's perspective? absolutely not.
but I guess what I'm saying is I saw /Adam/ more as a series of questions than a definite answer. which is also how I see Schrag's comics.
I'll have a lot more to say about this book once I've processed it but suffice it to say that I think Ariel Schrag is a badass and I also think it's hilarious that of the negative reviews I've read, more are about cussing than the actually potentially problematic aspects.(less)