**spoiler alert** I'm not exactly sure what to make of this novel. The first 20 percent of the book was drawn out, awkwardly written, and riddled with...more**spoiler alert** I'm not exactly sure what to make of this novel. The first 20 percent of the book was drawn out, awkwardly written, and riddled with angst and unnecessary drama. Particularly, the drama caused by the use of the 'dead parents' trope was a big distraction. It was an artificial way to 'isolate' the character, an easy way out for the author to avoid calling attention to the real issue of parents who don't support their children's choices. Instead, we get two parents who were so good and so supportive that they were violently killed off, just so that Grayson can pine for them throughout the story, something that gets very old, very quickly. which just so happens to be a theme of the novel. For me, this is problematic. LGBT characters shouldn't need tragic padding to make them sympathetic to readers. His mom could have easily filled the role of his aunt. His dad could have filled the role of his uncle. He could have had two other brothers. Instead, Grayson is artificially isolated by the author, and the effect isn't as powerful or profound as the author might have hoped.
Another thing that bothered me a little was the focus on 'clothing' as Grayson's idea of femininity. I never really got a sense of what it means for Grayson to want to be a girl. There are moments when Grayson looks in the mirror and wishes he looks like his Mom, but the author doesn't really do much to explain why. Being transgender is confusing for the person who is going through it, and unfortunately, as a reader, I wasn't really able to connect. Maybe it's because I'm an adult who tends to shift along the gender spectrum, but for me, being a woman isn't about what kind of cloths I wear, and it's certainly not about wearing pink shirts or dresses... I've never worn a dress unless I've had no choice in the matter, and I still primarily identify as female. I'd have liked for Grayson to have explored this a lot more.
All of that said, once I was able to push through the things I really loathed about this story, 25% to 80% went by quickly, and I found myself becoming more immersed and sympathetic toward Grayson. I found myself hoping that he would take the names 'Grace' and 'Gracie' used against him as taunts and consider owning them. I'd have liked to know if he would like those as girls names, or if he feels he should have a different female name. I'd have also liked to see more of a transition during the book, rather than right at the very end. There were a lot of opportunities for him to open up toward the end of the story, but the author withheld that just so there could be this poignant moment at the end, when he changes his shirt before the debate. I'd have preferred to have seen that play out, rather than to be dropped at the end of the book, with the 'storm of change' trope raging outside.
I would give this five stars if it weren't for the heavy usage of cliches and tropes. They're just something that it's really hard for me to look past as a reader and a reviewer. The clunky narrative detracts from the story, and the dead-parents-for-sympathy thing made the story really hard to get into. With those things in mind, I'd give this a 3 star rating, which for me, means it was average, readable, and worth others reading. I know that a lot of teens can completely overlook stereotypes and tropes, while I cannot. I know that this will appeal to a lot of people, and perhaps the simpleness of the story, with Grayson more worried about clothes than genitals, is good for this age group. I was very aware of who and what I was when I was in sixth grade, but I think I was kind of mature for my age, so it's possible not everyone would be ready for something more heavy-handed.(less)
I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting much from this. For some reason, I had it in my head that it would be stupid and riddled with pointless drama and t...moreI'll be honest, I wasn't expecting much from this. For some reason, I had it in my head that it would be stupid and riddled with pointless drama and tons of gorgeous and super powerful vampires, like many other vampire stories are. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn't the case. There WAS a bit more drama than I cared for, but I loved how the vampires are portrayed in this. It's rare to find a vampire story with a palatable blend of realism and fantasy and the way that the dhampirs, moroi, and strigoi are developed was handled beautifully. I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.(less)