Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Bad Boy

Rate this book
Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus the scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity.

But Ren has been living a double life.

Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as him. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence.

But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for.

Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too.

Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published December 6, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Elliot Wake

5 books647 followers
ELLIOT WAKE (formerly known as Leah Raeder) is a transgender author of four novels: Unteachable, Black Iris, Cam Girl, and Bad Boy. Aside from reading his brains out, Elliot enjoys video games, weightlifting, and perfecting his dapper style. He lives with his partner in Chicago.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
169 (31%)
4 stars
155 (28%)
3 stars
128 (23%)
2 stars
55 (10%)
1 star
33 (6%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 188 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
November 28, 2016
I'm playing another role, Mr. Happy Well-Adjusted Trans Guy. Because that's the narrative. The only story I'm allowed to tell is how much I hated myself before transition, how happy I am now.

Elliot Wake never fails to rip my heart out. You might remember him as Leah Raeder from the intoxicating mindfucks that were Unteachable, Black Iris and Cam Girl, but here he returns with a brutally honest book about a trans man, gender, and rape culture - a book that will challenge you to think at every turn of the page.

Wake is a master at showing the horror and beauty that live alongside each other - in romance, friendship, sex, and in being trans. His writing is pure colourful poetry, but with it he reveals the darkness in the world around us, and in ourselves.

Ren, like pretty much all of the author's characters, is a tortured soul, caught somewhere between the relief that testosterone and his own transitioning brings him, and the beautiful horrible world that isn't always welcoming to his true self; the man he has always been.

The plot is strange, feeling almost darkly satirical at times, but for me, this went well with Wake's style. Very few authors can pull off introducing a vigilante social-justice group to a real world setting and expect the reader to just roll with it, but somehow it seems to work here. The bloody, shady antics of "Black Iris" offer some twisted entertainment alongside Ren's inner turmoil and the social commentary.
If only they knew what it felt like, being held hostage by your own skin.

I especially liked that Ren was a Youtube vlogger, sharing his trans experience with the world. But while we often tend to hold binary male/female misogyny issues as something different from trans issues, this book shows all the ways the two are inextricably entwined. Ren's perspective is an extremely interesting one; being a man who has had the opportunity to experience the world in a woman's body, to know women as so few men can, he feels a lot of anger against misogynists and those who would hurt women.

Ren struggles with what it means to be transgender in this world. How can he reconcile this with the idea that gender is a social construct? How can Ren make peace with knowing he is a man, always has been a man, but on some level hating men because he understands what it’s like to be a woman who is vulnerable to their misogyny. It's such a complex and thoughtful work on many levels.

For me, it was an absolutely fascinating and haunting read. Wake examines gender, sex, rape culture and misogyny, and he wraps it up in his trademark beautiful writing - a sensory experience that captures the rhythm of the music playing, the feel of sweat on skin, and the smell of bodies crushed together in a dark club. I always feel so entirely in the moment he is describing.

A heartbreaking, necessary, and unapologetically queer book for trans and cis readers alike.

***Quotes were taken from an uncorrected advance readers copy.***

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Store
Profile Image for Leah.
Author 5 books2,623 followers
September 3, 2015

The concept of this one has changed pretty damn drastically. It takes place in-universe with my three previous books. The hero is a member of the vigilante group Black Iris. You'll see a lot of familiar faces.

Get ready for some mindfucking. And genderfucking. And general fucking.

Inspiration board:
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
595 reviews3,587 followers
March 16, 2017
4.5 stars

"If only they knew what it felt like, being held hostage by your own skin."

A while ago, I read If I Was Your Girl, which is largely a sweet, coming-of-age romance with a transgender woman protagonist.

Bad Boy grinds sweet under its boot, jumps on it for good measure and hurls in a speeding van heading for the earth's core.

Like all of Elliot Wake's books, Bad Boy is gritty and ruthless. It plunges you straight into the experience of being a transgender man in this time and age. Whereas If I Was Your Girl was self-described by the author as being relatively simplistic in its deception of gender dysphoria, Wake's story pulls no punches. It dissects the nitty-gritty. The confusion pre and post-transition. The endless wondering of whether you made a mistake.

"I put off transition for the first year of college. Took classes to help me understand society's sexism better, and why it hurt so much to be seen as a woman. Examined my own internalized misogyny: Did I want to transition to escape being a girl, or did I need to do it because I was a boy?"

I learned so much about the transgender community. Some good, some bad. (FYI, Wake is a transgender man.) I had known vaguely that transgender people needed surgery to complete their transition, but not the actual biological details. It also educated me on the horrific truth that current rape kits can't detect sexual violations committed by transgender men because they do not produce semen.

But my favorite part is its discussion on intersectional feminism. Where do transgender men, or transgender women for that matter, fit in the fight for women's rights? If gender is indeed a social construct, how do you explain all these people who have never felt right in their bodies?

Radical feminists or misandrists like one of the characters in Bad Boy may immediately write them off as belonging to the patriarchal structure. They are men or used to be men, and that makes them the enemy.

"But I'm a girl," she said.


"So girls can't be predators."

Bad Boy explores that blurry line of what it means to be a girl and what it means to be a boy. And it does so in prose that makes my inner writer weep jealous tears every time:

"It was always this way. I cracked my rib cage open only to allow venom in my heart."

There's also a side plot regarding abusive relationships between lesbians. Same-sex domestic abuse isn't a subject talked about much in mainstream media, and Wake delves deep into that thorny tangle of mental and emotional threads.

A few elements didn't sit right, like the vigilante group plot, which would probably work better in a fantastical setting. And the love interest Tasmin came off as too Pixie Girl for me. But these are tiny flaws against the big picture of awesomeness.

As always, don't skip the acknowledgements. He includes a letter to his past self, who you may have heard of as Leah Raeder. If your heart isn't in shreds by the end, it will be.
Profile Image for Lala BooksandLala.
500 reviews63.9k followers
November 29, 2016
I have LOVED Elliot Wake(writing under his birth name Leah Raeder)'s previous work immensely. In fact, Black Iris is one of my favourite books of all time. Unfortunately, Bad Boy just did not work for me.

I very much appreciate the conversation that goes on in this author's books. He starts great conversation about gender and sexual identity, and we get characters who identify in so many different ways, but we also get PLOT. STORYLINE. Content that includes and builds off of all those great topics, but also stands on it's own as solid narrative. I love that we get such a wide array of characters in his novels, especially the groups with less visibility in literature; gay, lesbian, gender-fluid and transgender characters, people with disabilities, people of colour etc.

The main point I'm trying to make is his books are worth reading, and they are important, especially for the people who haven't seen themselves reflected in novels before. I would never want to deter someone who may otherwise benefit from reading this book from doing so because of my less-than-enthusiastic review. Ren(our protagonist)'s identity and the transgender aspect of this novel was handled perfectly and authentically, as is the case when an author pulls from their own experiences, and why own voices books are so important to support. Whether you identify with this main character or not, you will gain some knowledge and understanding from Elliot Wake's words- I know I did.

With that said, reasons this book did not work for me start with what I HAVE loved in his earlier books: the plot, the storyline, the layers. Usually there is the thoughtful conversation on gender and sexual identity as previously discussed above, and then we get a strong, equally thoughtful plot to go along with it. However this book felt like it was written by 2 different people, or at 2 completely different times, like the author couldn't decide which storyline was the focus of the novel; the transitioning protagonist, the vigilante Black Iris gang, the new hot romance, or the toxic best friendship. Due to this, none of the storylines got enough time to marinate for me, and it jumped all over at an uncomfortable pace. The main character's female to male gender re-assignment/confirmation was such a strong plotline, between inner dialogue about thoughts on gender, to memories, to youtube videos discussing the transition. We also had the best friend, Ingrid, who used to be romantically involved with Ren, and has had a very hard time accepting and being supportive of Ren's transition. This, paired with Ren's family situation, him missing out on his sisters' childhood because his mother has effectively removed him from interacting with the family, was enough of a powerful plot on its own.

But I didn't get to fully invest myself in that portion because we first get thrown into the Black Iris world. Black Iris is a vigilante group that seeks out misogynist men and "teaches them a lesson" that was first introduced in "Leah Raeder's" novel of the same name. Ren is a member of this group, and the first third of Bad Boy has us right back into that group, which also includes characters from Cam Girl, another book I loved from this author. While you don't need to read Black Iris and Cam Girl before diving into Bad Boy, I truly can't imagine readers who haven't, feeling anything but shell shocked from the pace of the introductions. Even I got a little overwhelmed with all the name dropping.

But then being a member of Black Iris takes a complete backseat for the majority of the novel, and we are swept up in Ren's transition, his tense relationship with Ingrid, AND a mysterious boy who reappears from Ren's past that he is set on destroying. Oh, AND a new exciting romance with a girl Ren has just met- that's actually a pretty significant bulk of the plot.

I never felt fully invested in ANY of the storylines, in spite of desperately wanting to be. For someone absolutely obsessed with the Black Iris novel, I was shocked at how much I disliked a book back in that world. Revisiting those characters was NOT what I was expecting, and my views on the members of the group changed, which was a strange experience. I had such a mishmash of feelings while reading this book and all I know is something felt off about time spent on each portion, but I can't decide if I got too little or too much of each aspect of Ren's life and where I would have preferred the focus to be. I don't know if I wanted Black Iris completely eliminated, or the old boyfriend storyline removed, or the new love interest taken out, or the Ingrid drama gone, or the Youtube aspect minimized.

Speaking of Ren's Youtube vlogs, those are a whole other significant layer of the story, which at first I found to be a great, interesting aspect to the book. Ren is kind of a celebrity in his circle, getting millions of views on his series of videos about his transition, which gains him a lot of attention out in the bar scene. However, the passages which included the videos weren't written in a way that flowed for me, including abrupt feeling [jumpcut] and [cut to black] stuff along with overly educational Wikipedia-esq exposition. It turned out to feel like just another needless addition to the already excessively layered book.

I fully recognise that a human being's life IS full of so many different experiences and situations, and isn't solely focused on just one element- but just from a reading perspective, it was too busy a novel for me- and that's probably my own downfall as a reader, which is why I've removed the actual star rating.

I received an ARC from the publisher. This book comes out December 2016.
Profile Image for Mara.
166 reviews219 followers
August 14, 2016
I am entirely in awe of how relevant this book is. This story is educating, genuinely human, confidently written, suspenseful, and above all it makes me hopeful that as long as representation like this exists, we CAN make this world better.

Okay so none of my words seem adequate enough to describe how brilliant this book is, so all I can say is: preorder now!
Profile Image for Dill Werner.
85 reviews6 followers
February 8, 2017
I honestly think I terrified the author himself when I told him I'd received a DRC in exchange for an honest review. No need to fear. It was well worth the heart-pounding Twitter exchanges, Mr. Wake. You get a solid "A+" with the expectation that there will be new and exciting works forthcoming from this very bad boy. Transgenderella, anyone?

“Imperfection” has never felt so perfect. This novel really should have pulled my hair and spanked my ass if it was going to mind f**k me so hard. Damn, I loved it. BAD BOY is a tale of broken characters, broken promises, and anti-heroes/heroines that will leave you doubting who to trust and what to believe.

Renard “Ren” Grant is a BAD BOY. That is, he doesn’t quite know how to be a boy. Currently, Ren is a trans YouTube star secretly working for the Black Iris underground vigilante group. He tracks down men who prey on women and 'convinces' them to change their ways. Things get personal when someone from Ren’s past is targeted by Black Iris, a cyber stalker calling himself 'Crito.' Crito heads a misogynistic organization of men who prey on and abuse women. A planned Iris investigation on Crito goes awry, throwing Ren into the path of new Black Iris recruit, Tamsin “Tam” Baylor. Tam’s connection to Black Iris awakens a web of lies that traces back to The Wolf, Laney Keating aka the leader of the Black Iris organization. Now, Ren's position within BI is compromised and he's unsure who to trust, including his long time best friend and former ex-girlfriend, Ingrid. Ren and Ingrid have their own problems; Ingrid has never been accepting of his gender identity, leading to a distancing during Ren's transition. But when another, darker predator comes knocking at Ren���s door, asking for the girl who no longer exists, he will have to pick sides and decide who his real friends are and which are playing his at weaknesses.

Both the reader and Ren will be questioning what is real until the very last scene unfolds. Even then, minds will be toyed with and lines crossed. BAD BOY a fast-paced read filled with sexual tension and high stakes. Memorable characters with distinct personalities are there to guide the audience through the maze of plot turns and revelations. This isn't a book to be missed and one that won't be overlooked. If you want a gritty, eye-opening look at controversial subjects going head-to-head with each other (female/male/trans rights), then BAD BOY is a must-read.

This novel took me on an emotional ride while teaching me things about hormones and gender differences I was honestly fascinated to learn. I’m a sucker for well-placed fiction that’s thoroughly researched. Oh, yes. Give me all of your facts and figures. Tell me about T levels and how they influence emotional regularity. The information was incorporated beautifully in a way that didn’t hinder the flow of the plot while enhancing Ren’s character. The information was given to me so effortlessly- not info dumped- and each piece had meaning. A well-placed factoid about men not crying as much as women due to testosterone levels here. How T changes your libido there. After all, this is a trans man’s story that’s written by a trans man, BUT IT IS SO MUCH MORE. It takes on subjects from every angle and makes you consider all sides of the argument before coming to a conclusion.

As for style, BAD BOY is beautifully written with poetical descriptions that border lyrical, ones you really don’t see with its genre anymore. I was engrossed in the environment, able to taste the salty skin of lovers and feel the pulsating nightclub music. My senses came alive through the simplest passages. It was electrifying. The publishers (Simon and Schuster) aren’t allowing any excerpts to be released before publication or else I’d give examples. Not that I’ve highlighted over 100 passages- okay, so it was more.

BAD BOY opened up my eyes to some of the potentially harming gender ideas I have previously held. Trust that I am by no means narrow-minded and or hold any phobias. I am a trained SAFE Zone ALLY (4+ years), feminist, LGBT+ activist, fall along the spectrum, and yet I still have so much to learn. Please, #ownvoices authors, teach me. I don't want to stop learning! (Edit: I've now come out publically as genderqueer, which I was struggling with while writing this review. HI! Pleasure to meet you.)

I’ve always taken the stance that gender roles were learned. ‘A man does Y and a woman does X.’ Yeah, well I’ll do whatever the hell I want to, genetics be damned. Living in the Deep South, it’s hard to have a gender neutral marriage where there are no wife/husband roles. Cue the banjos because I’ve been to too many baby showers or children’s birthday parties where boys wore blue, played with trucks and guns and were force-fed manly-man ‘my boy ain’t havin’ no dolls’ lines from birth. If not, they were seen as “sissy.” Girls were shoved into ruffles/tutus then given Barbies, shopping toys, and cleaning supplies because it’s what the culture was reinforcing. I’ve hated these constructs for so many years. The context of this novel opened my mind and allowed me to see past the negativity to the underlying identity. All we need to do is talk it out, be a little mindful, and share our feelings. I'm more compassionate. You're more compassionate. We're all more compassionate.

A person, regardless of gender, can identify with female or male oriented objects because it’s what feels right to them, it reflects their inner self. I’ve always been of the mindset that people do what is right for their mental and physical wellbeing. Don’t spend any more time being miserable than you have to. GTFO if you can. Raise your hand if you spent too long in a toxic relationship/environment. *looks around* I see we're all here and accounted for. Let's continue.

Seeing the transitioning experience was raw. People need this. It's not magazine covers and TV shows. The same glossed-over exposure once happened to mental illness until people spoke out. Transitioning is about inner turmoil and outer battles. It's not about cosmetics. It is not a choice. It’s a lifesaving procedure. Each day spent trapped in a foreign body is on borrowed time. Ren’s story will SHOW you how vital it is. Not tell you. It. Will. Show. You. It will rip your bleeding heart, watch it pulsate between his claws, and ask, “Do you get it now? Do you see how exposed and raw it feels?” Yes. Yes, I do. These tears are yours. Take them as an offering for your next work-in-progress, damn you.

One of my favorite parts was being able to identify with parts of this novel while not being trans myself. I felt such a connection and investment in the main character’s story. It is told from a place of “No bullshit, this is how it is. I am going to take you there- good, bad, ugly, and embarrassing.” I have body dysmorphia from 15+ years of eating disorders and am in recovery from self-harm. When Ren spoke about the complications of never liking what you see despite what others saw and wanting to crawl out of your body at any cost, I was in tears. Yes, again. Stop looking at me with those judgmental eyes. You are not my mother.

With dysmorphia, you can change yourself, have the surgeries, lose over 75-pounds, stop cutting, go to therapy, take the meds, fly over the magical rainbow, and have the world tell you you’re beautiful, but that person- your old sense of self- will always be staring back at you in the damn mirror, haunting you. The constant doubts never go away. You'll never be enough. And this is the first time I’ve seen it represented in a novel where I’ve been able to connect with a character and not felt self-pity or drenched in sorrow. It was strengthening to read someone else’s struggles even if they’re not identical to mine. I’m not at the point where I can write at length about my own history without relapsing. So, I say to you, Mr. Elliot Finley Wake, bravo and thank you.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,280 reviews1,654 followers
September 21, 2017
I’ve read all of Elliot Wake’s books, from Unteachable through Black Iris to Cam Girl, and I’ve watched the way his fiction has evolved from the earliest Leah Raeder days. Though I’ve had mixed results all along (Unteachable pissed me off, Black Iris surprisingly delighted me, and Cam Girl I was torn on), I can say with some amount of authority (how much that is you can decide on your own; I’m not claiming expertise here, but I do have knowledge) that Bad Boy is Wake’s weakest novel thus far.

Before I really launch into this review, which is going to consist of a lot of quotes from the ARC (note that they may have been changed in the final copy), be aware that, though this isn’t officially a series, this is totally a series. Characters from Black Iris and Cam Girl are present for all of the book; it’s way past cameos. In fact, they all run a vigilante group that takes out asshole men together called, you guessed it, Black Iris. The opening chapters basically feel like a circle jerk (unfortunately not a literal one, which could have been fun) of how amazing and dark and sexy all of Wake’s characters are. It doesn’t make any damn sense for them all to be there together (especially since Ellis is here helping out but Vada is off somewhere doing something for some reason ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ). The first part of the book feels like reading a fan fic of Wake’s books where the gang’s all together, and they’re the Justice League, but super dark and sexy!

What has been consistent throughout the Raeder/Wake books is the darkly poetic and compelling prose, a gift for metaphor and dark humor. There’s some of that in Bad Boy, but the writing, like the novel as a whole, is a mess. The writing isn’t consistent in style. It alternates between being the simplest I’ve seen in a novel by Wake and florid, over-the-top metaphor that doesn’t fit with the simpler narration. Part of why the more poetic prose worked for me from Wake’s prior efforts was that it fit so perfectly with the characters and the tone, and it was used consistently, so it felt like an authentic voice. I just don’t get that here. Some metaphors threw me out of the book with their oddness. Some examples.

Her lips made me think of my finger parting freesia petals.

Oy with the petal metaphors already. (To be fair, this is the first one for you guys, but there’s soooo much in this book).

The gold stromata in her irises burned like fuses.

I googled the word “stromata” and I still don’t have any idea what this sentence is trying to say.

Her hands were all over me, raising static from the wool suit, then touching my face in pops of little blue sparks.

I don’t know why blue sparks are happening in the midst of this sex scene. After each of these, and many more lines, I paused and went “wait, what?” and that shouldn’t happen. With Black Iris, if I paused to read back over a line, it was because it was so beautiful and perfect (there were a few of these here too, but more of these clunkers), not because it actually made no sense.

It’s not just the writing that’s confused. Consequently, the characterization is a mess. The writing is Ren’s voice, and it’s all over the place. It doesn’t feel like it fits him, because I’m not sure than any human would really talk/think precisely like this. Banter felt forced and awkward. One example of this is the flirting between Tam and Ren, which mostly involves them calling each other Mr. and Ms. like rejects from 50 Shades of Grey.

“Tell me your story, Ms. Baylor.”

Drowsy smile. “You’ll think poorly of me, Mr. Grant.”

They do this over and over again, throughout the novel. Basically any time they’re having a “cute” bonding moment, they call each other Ms. Baylor and Mr. Grant, and it’s weird af. You guys aren’t in a business meeting. This is not THE PAST. It’s stilted and uncomfortable and not the least bit sexy. There’s a reason this is one of the many things people mocked about 50 Shades.

The novel as a whole feels like it’s not sure what its message is. Though there tend to be some feminist infodumps, Bad Boy comes across as meninist at times, due mostly to the unfortunate and problematic falsified rape plot that makes up the core of the novel. The villains are feminists (specifically TERFS, trans-exclusionary radical feminists), and there’s an undercurrent of the mistreatment of men while the novel also tries to point out privilege. It’s a mess, and it had me cringing and occasionally dropping my jaw out of shock. I have a couple of scenes to share, because I don’t think I can explain it sufficiently.

“What’s her motive? Why would she hurt you?”

“For being a man. That’s all the reason she’s ever needed to hurt someone. And all I needed.”

“That’s absurd,” Tam said.

“It’s not. All those men she sent me after—I never once questioned their guilt. Why? Because they’re men.”

The context for this is Ren starting to think that maybe Black Iris (the vigilante group run by Laney and staffed by the characters from all of Wake’s other novels) has turned on him because he’s a man. Thinking that Laney has betrayed him, he’s now assuming that the other men they’ve gone after were being unfairly maligned. I mean, if one case is falsified, they all must be, right?

“If he held something against you, you didn’t have full agency. You were a captive. A captive can’t give consent.”

Tam shrugged. “We’re all trapped by something. Freedom is an illusion. It’s the wind in your hair as you plummet off the cliff’s edge.”

This is a conversation Tam and Ren have in the context of past abusive relationships about consent. The fact that it seems to come down on consent not being a real thing is pretty fucking scary honestly. As I’ll say over and over again, I don’t know that this moment is intended to resonate like it does, but I find it completely terrifying.

Laney was no different from Norah. Both girls who’d accuse a man of the worst crime. Foment loathing and indignation against him. Because who wouldn’t believe a guy would do the worst thing? Of course he would. Rape culture, patriarchy, misogyny: these words had leaped from academic discourse into the common vernacular. Norah’s accusation needed no proof. Just her tears, and the whole history of men hurting women behind it.

While I don’t think (though I really can’t know for certain based on just the book) that Bad Boy was meant to convey how hard it is for men because of rape culture, there are times that that is exactly what the book manages to convey. It’s a controversial topic, and it’s handled sloppily, as though Ren himself doesn’t know how he feels about the subject. It’s a mess of internalized misogyny, even beyond what it is acknowledged within the book, and remnants of feminism from a transgender man who no longer knows quite how to feel about feminism.

How she’d believed my version of events. No question. Like Crito said, all a girl had to do was cry.

This is Ren agreeing with a misogynist internet troll who targets outspoken feminists, the same sort of outspoken feminists who end up being the villains of Bad Boy.

Choosing to center everything on a falsified rape makes a statement, and not a good one. The only thing to counteract this is a couple of paragraphs of narration which acknowledge that it’s fucked up without changing anything about the actual plot of the book:

Norah did most of the talking. Eager to take the blame, do penitence, absolve herself. The world held no pity for a woman who’d falsely accused a man of rape.

I knew how hard it would be on her. They’d hold her up as proof all girls were liars. They would hate her. They would say she should actually be raped, for lying about it.

Strange, how those so eager to punish girls for lying turned a blind eye to the boys who raped. As if the real goal was merely to inflict hurt on female bodies. To punish femininity.

I knew these things. I knew exactly how hard it was to be believed after you’d been hurt. Even by yourself.

But believing was Black Iris’s job. I needed my name cleared. My life back.

This bit of narrative monologuing acknowledges that this whole thing is completely fucked and will help rape culture, but Ren doesn’t give a shit. And I get that on some level. But also, this is a novel. Everything is a choice. And the choice was made here to depict a woman lying about rape, to make feminists the villains.

“Then why did you say it was rape?”

—Because I felt slutty, okay? Everyone made me feel like shit about it, except Ingrid. She said I could make myself look better if I played the victim. That I could fix my reputation.

I really just can’t fathom why this is where the novel ended up. It’s puzzling and upsetting and no doubt massively triggering. Ren’s so much angrier at the women who hurt him than the men who hurt him, and there’s no real in-text acknowledgement of that. He lets the man who raped him walk away after a relatively polite discussion, with only the threat of potential future attack should the man step out of line, while the female villain they debate murdering with her tied to a chair.

It’s a shame that the novel loses itself in this horrific plot, because there are the bones of an excellent book in here. There’s so much detail and true, honest emotion in the parts about transitioning. I learned a lot from that, and Wake does a brilliant job highlighting the complex emotional landscape of a transgender man. Unfortunately, that’s all mired in a muddied, problematic novel.

Bad Boy doesn’t feel like it knows what it wants to be. This novel is messy in characterization, sloppy in prose, and problematic in plot. I doubt I will be reading another Elliot Wake novel after this.
Profile Image for Elmer.
100 reviews
December 14, 2016
I’ve followed this author across their career, so this review will be complex. Elliot (formerly Leah) blew everyone away with Unteachable, yet each work since the aforementioned fails to match its quality. I sincerely believe Black Iris, Cam Girl, and Bad Boy fail in one way or another because the subject is too close to Elliot for him to present it in an objective manner. Objective does not mean stripped of authenticity; it means presenting the subject without taking a preachy, bitter, or condescending tone. Objective does not mean the narrator should forgo negative emotions; it means those emotions should be spoken from the characters rather than spoken to the audience.

As a black woman, I understand Elliot wanting his message/voice heard, but it should never come at the expense of quality. Elliot could easily win literary awards if he stopped being so hell-bent on trying to make points. From the genre-bashing in Black Iris to the overlong (and tacky) exposition in Cam Girl and Bad Boy, Elliot fails himself, in turn failing readers. Unteachable, while having a few plot hiccups, is balanced. Black Iris, Cam Girl, and Bad Boy are indulgent in their prose, contrived in their plot, unevolved in their characters, and heavy-handed in their delivery of themes. Elliot can write, for sure, but he allows personal goals to stunt the cohesiveness of his works. No lie, my ratings went from 5 (Unteachable), 4 (Black Iris), 3 (Cam Girl), 2 (Bad Boy). . . . Please don’t let me get to 1.
Profile Image for Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries).
1,248 reviews393 followers
February 11, 2021
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! My copy was an ARC I got for review from the publisher via Edelweiss.
*Tamsin is dark-skinned, though I can't recall much else
*you're hard-pressed to find a het person in this novel
*Ren has depression, Blythe is bipolar

God help you if you try to read Bad Boy before Wake’s previous novels Black Iris and Cam Girl because it’s gonna spoil you hardcore on events and twists from those novels. I’m putting that first because I decided not to heed Wake’s warning and I regret it somewhat. The excellency found within Bad Boy‘s pages ensures I’ll go back to read the previous novels anyway!

The novel’s short length and intense content make for an incredible binge-read, so I’ll imitate it and keep things short. The #ownvoices rep is clear even if you don’t know of Wake (formerly known as Leah Raeder) because the experience of being trans emanates from the pages. The book has no intent to educate people, but it certainly taught me a few things I didn’t know about trans men before. The writing is absolutely luscious too. Just read this:
Chicago was me. It had been built for other things, torn down, burned, rebuilt. Beneath the cement skin and neon veins it hid blood-soaked slaughter yards, pipes made of poisonous lead. A secret history. Sometimes the old bones showed through, reminding you: I was made for other things. Design isn’t destiny. (ARC, ~p. 140)

Ren and Tamsin have incredible chemistry as partners, as rivals since Ren is reluctant to share his position, and as lovers once they finally jump in the sack or share something as small as a kiss. Readers who want to see more of characters from Black Iris and Cam Girl will get exactly that, though Bad Boy doesn’t paint them in much of a flattering light. As a vengeance-story-loving person, it’s easy to get swept up in the madness and to see these characters as heroes, but Bad Boy lays them out as they are, flaws and all.

If you can’t stand characters who make bad decisions for any reason (and we all know a reader like that somehow), this will hurt. Laney, Ren, and other principal characters spend their time making terrible decisions for entirely understandable reasons, but that doesn’t stifle the urge to scream at them. They’re all deeply compelling and you know there’s a reason for what they’re doing.

My one hang-up is that the ending is a bit too sweet based on things previously mentioned in the book as well as the events of the book. It’s very much a matter of personal taste; even if it doesn’t feel like the right ending for this novel, it’s nice to see trans characters get a semblance of a HEA. They’re surprisingly difficult to find…

If you want to be like me and read Bad Boy first just because it’s the first of Wake’s interconnected novels you have access to, don’t do it. Just wait until you have access to them all so they can be read in the proper order. You’ll be thankful for it! I’m staying mum on a lot of the content because it’s something worth experiencing.
Profile Image for Fenriz Angelo.
425 reviews29 followers
December 16, 2016
I dnf'd at 50% but in the morning i decided to actually finish it, and i'm glad i forced myself to do it because now i have a better view of the book.

If there's a word to describe this book i'd say "juvenile", you might say "duh it's shelved as NA, what did you expect?". Though i don't like YAs NAs books a lot, i've read some that are actually pretty good and don't feel as juvenile as this one. What i mean with juvenile is the way the story is told. I think the book feels most of the time like a tumblr sjw masturbatory fantasy. Which is not bad? the issue is the worldbuilding and characters feel so farfetched i couldn't buy it at all. Another problem i see it's the fact that the author wanted to make so many statements they felt forced and, as a reader, i'd rather see how the characters and plot unravel social complexities than being told what's right and what's wrong beforehand, therefore see no character development form anyone in the book.

Other thing that got on my nerves was the narration, this overuse of metaphors and analogies is such a big flaw in the genre i don't see the appeal. It feels more pretentious than lyric in my opinion but i'm gonna leave it at everyone have different tastes and this kind of narration doesn't work for me which made this read even more difficult.

The only thing i liked was Ren's struggle before and during transition, aside that the whole thing was a big meh, i couldn't see a clear plot, there's a lot of things going on in the background but at the same time nothing happens, there's no chemistry between Ren and Cressida, i didn't get much from the secondary characters and the so called plot twist didn't surprised me at all *shrugs*.
Profile Image for RentasticReads.
699 reviews176 followers
December 25, 2016
I'm really sad that it took me a lot longer to finish this book than I expected. And it's not even the book's fault. It's more like life—my life in particular—just got in the way. And it sucks because this book? Pure beauty and power.

I know people have their own opinions, own stands, own beliefs. But I've never been against the LGBT community. I think this community is nothing but wonderful and vivacious and unique. The fact that they're some of the happiest and most carefree people out in the world is fantastic. It's intoxicating and infectious.

But have you ever really stopped and thought of the struggle, the pain, the sacrifices they went through just to own up and be true to themselves? Of having that courage and bravery to break out of the shell holding them prisoner in their own bodies? No? Well, this book will rip you wide open and make you see, feel and experience what it's like for someone undergoing one of the hardest, yet most freeing phases of his life.

This isn't my first LGBT book; I've read some great M/M books already. But this—this is my first go at a book about a transgender. And I'd say it was more fascinating and enlightening than I ever expected it to be.

In BAD BOY, Renard Grant documents and vlogs his transition, from the very first day he took testosterone or T. He's also part of a vigilante group, the Black Iris, who saves women in trouble or in need of their help from getting abused by men. I won't get into the story much here. I don't want to give away or explain too much about what happened. Just know that story-wise? This book was just a huge, endless pit of a mindfuck. Seriously. There was so much going on, aside from Ren walking you through his transitioning and everything he feels, whether it was elation, mad desire or depression. But once you get to the bigger picture? The story is just crazy brilliant. It will utterly take you on a wild ride.

This is where it all turns black and white, I think. It's either you love it or you don't. Elliot Wake has created such a unique setting and atmosphere in this book that will knock you way more than sideways if you're not careful enough. It's piercing. It's powerful. You'll have to have, at the very least, the right frame of mind before you even dive into it so you can be into it. I feel like you also have to have some kind of next level smarts when you read this because of the terms and the way Wake laid it all out. And hell, did he lay it all out.

My heart is so full of pride and awe for this author as I know how personal and close to his heart this book is. I just loved his guts even more for the huge risk he took to write this. It's downright inspiring and empowering—an act of letting a certain voice be heard by many. If you think you can handle delving and knowing a little bit more about trans men, if you're up to it and you think you'd be interested to read something extraordinary, give this a shot. It'll make you understand and see things in a very different light when you hit that last page. Believe me.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,376 reviews929 followers
December 23, 2016
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Renard Grant is a popular transgender vlogger who is also a vigilante saving terrorized women in his spare time. If your immediate thought is “that’s a bit of a mouthful” you would be right. Grant’s story is a rousing tale of discovering your true identity; something that Wake can speak from the heart about because his emotions shown clearly through the delivery. The transformation process is discussed in much detail and it’s enlightening and informative, shedding light on something with many pre-conceived notions.

I adored Unteachableand while Black Iris and Cam Girl both had their fair share of flaws, there was still much to love and the writing style is something to behold. The issue I had with Bad Boy is there’s simply far too much going on in the few pages there are. There was already enough of a story recounting the experience of transitioning without adding in the concept of a masked vigilante group protecting women. It’s a great concept, the only problem is the transition story was a far more compelling one and the superfluous addition only caused it to pale in comparison. On top of that, the combination of many of Wake’s previous characters from Black Iris and Cam Girl was overwhelming. Each of her characters can hold their own as the star of the show and having them all grouped together, battling for attention, felt like some sort of all-consuming motley (and not in the best way). Bad Boy is still no doubt well worth the read for the edifying aspect alone.

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Profile Image for Taylor.
767 reviews422 followers
December 10, 2016
This was the first book that I've read from Elliot Wake and I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd seen a lot of hype around his books but I'm always hesitant with really hyped books.
But I think the hype is well deserved because I really enjoyed Bad Boy.
I was pretty confused toward the beginning of the book because it focuses on "Black Iris" and I had no idea what that was. I'm assuming if I had read Elliot's other book, Black Iris, it would have made a lot more sense. I don't think that the books are in a series so it was a little frustrating that it referenced another book so heavily.
I did love the writing style though. I think the writing was my favorite part of the book.
I really liked the main character, Ren. I loved his flashbacks and vlogs about his transition. I thought it was really interesting and showed me a perspective that I'd never seen before.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It's very different from any book I've read before and I loved the writing style.
Profile Image for V_Nerdbooks.
625 reviews187 followers
January 11, 2017
Just finished this one, and wow.

The story was a 4·5 star for me, I love Elliot Wake's (formally Leah Raeder) writing style, and this is his first book after he has transitioned.

A very brave story as he is using his life story transitioning as the main character.

The writing as usual is brilliant, but the authors notes at the end where he writes a letter to his old self (Leah) just had me in tears.

"I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to write this, to open my eyes and wake up as Elliot. But you carried us both here. You spent your whole life shouldering both of our burdens. I’ve got this now, Leah. You can rest. Thank you for holding on until I was ready."
Profile Image for Maryam.
18 reviews66 followers
October 18, 2017
I love Elliot Wake's Cam Girl and Black Iris but this one was just awful.
I think the only part I enjoyed reading was the acknowledgement at the end.

Most of the characters are from Cam Girl and Black Iris. Although they're complex and layered in their own books, here they fell flat and the characterization can be summrized in one or two adjective.

The plot is all over the place. Everyrhing's OTT and in your face(there's no layer to anything.) the whole idea of Black Iris is ridiculous and too fuckin unrealistic. I hated how the idea behind it was never challenged,(hurting/murdering people when you see fit for some greater good reason or something and getting off on it at the same tim.)

The writing style was the worst though. I felt like I was being lectured most of the time by Ren or worse by the author and I hate being fed opinions as facts by authors through the characters. (Mostly on what it means to be a woman or a man and radical feminism here.)
And the romance?why was it even there?

Elliot Wake is one of my favorite authors. He has so much potential as a writer along with a unique style and a twisted mind. I hope his future works reach the bar he set with the previous books.
Profile Image for L.
144 reviews
Want to read
January 4, 2015
Idk what this book is about but you can bet your f*cking pony I'm going to read it.
357 reviews138 followers
January 7, 2018
3.5 stars

"An eye for an eye. I’d blind the whole world if I had to."

Just as it was the case with Black Iris and Cam Girl, the last page of Bad Boy by Elliot Wake left me feeling emotionally drained and in urgent need of hugs, but as every emotional junkie/ masochist reader I'm addicted to this type of books. Books that make you feel and leave some profound impression on you.

First of all - before reading Bad Boy, I highly recommend reading Black Iris #1 and Cam Girl #2, because the stories and the characters are intertwined. Otherwise you'll feel out of the loop if you jump right on this one. Bad Boy is a story about Ren, one of the members of the vigilante group called Black Iris which is dedicted on getting revenge on those who have wronged women. But this is not your typical revenge story. The story is more complex and thoughtprovoking than that, where revenge only makes a small part of it. First and foremost, for me, it's a quite powerful and poignant story about everyday life and struggles of a transgender with the addition of gender and rape culture.

Without spoiling anything all I can say is that you should read Elliot Wake's books if not solely because of the writing which is outstanding. Whereas I adored Black Iris and Cam Girl and can't recommend them enough, when it comes to Bad Boy I'll have to agree with readers who said that the concept of the story was good-I liked it, but I wasn't exactly satisfied with the way the author concluded some situations. With this I refer especially to the ending which was in my opinion rushed and to some point anticlimatic. To sum it up- there were some parts I loved and then some not so much. That's why this time it's 3.5 stars.

Recommended to the fans of thoughtprovoking mindfucks!

“We’re all trapped by something. Freedom is an illusion. It’s the wind in your hair as you plummet off the cliff’s edge."

Profile Image for Hailee.
344 reviews20 followers
December 8, 2016
Every. Time. I can't rave about these books or this author enough, and I'd be an incoherent mess if I tried to do either justice.

The acknowledgments alone hit me hard. This is such an important book and transitional endcap.
Profile Image for rey.
241 reviews117 followers
Want to read
May 19, 2020
i had a dream where i was looking at reviews for this book so i definitely have to read it now
1,065 reviews72 followers
September 4, 2018
Okay, so this book basically destroyed me. I know I should try and write a proper review, because that's not a useful thing to say, but I don't even know where to start.

Wait, I do know. I start with the part where this sat on my Amazon wishlist for literally MONTHS because the Kindle edition was £9.99 and frankly that's too much for a Kindle edition (publishers, take note), so I was hoping it would eventually be reduced. I happened to check yesterday and it had been dropped to 99p, which was even more of a bargain than I'd ever hoped for, so of course I bought it, even though it's now been so long that I can't remember who recommended it to me or in what context.

(For the record, it was definitely worth more than 99p, but I still maintain that £9.99 is too much for a Kindle edition. Tbh, it's pricey for a paperback.)

I vaguely knew the book was about a trans character, but I hadn't bothered to reread the blurb, so I went in without much in the way of knowledge or expectations. What I got was a book that felt like a kick in the ribs, emotionally speaking. Like, in a good way, but also I cried and it was messy and now I feel vaguely fragile.

This is not a happy book -- major TW for transphobia and sexual assault, as well as suicidal ideation / references to past suicide attempts -- but that's not why it made me cry. It made me cry because I finally got to experience what happens when a trans guy author writes a trans guy character. I've read books by authors who, academically speaking, understood what it's like to be trans. But this was one of the first ones where I FELT it. It just felt so painfully honest and real.

I think it's also one of the first books I've read aimed that deals with the stuff after coming out, and with medical transition and stuff. I've read a handful of YA books with trans characters, but they rarely went into the details the way this one did.

There were a few things that just felt too real and too personal. The way transphobia doesn't always look like hate and slurs, but sometimes it looks like someone you care about telling you that they think you're damaging a body they love. The way it feels to wonder if your body will ever be yours. The way sometimes you're not 100% sure if something's right but what you've got right now is WRONG so anything else will be better. The whole "is this just internalised misogyny or am I not a woman" internal conflict, which is... a conversation I had a LOT with one of my trans friends at uni, neither of us ever knowing how to find answers.
Did I want to transition to escape being a girl, or did I need to do it because I was a boy? And why did it have to be one or the other? Was it so horrible if part of my identity was a revolt against the way I was treated for having tits and a vag? I never wanted them. Maybe I could have tolerated them, in a better world. But in this world I experienced my physical womanhood as a stigma.

There were also a bunch of quotes that could've applied to chronic pain just as much as to gender feels, so as someone who has both, it was doubly relatable:
I gripped my spine through my skin, as if I could tear it out, show him. “There’s something wrong inside me. Fundamentally wrong. It’s a design flaw and I can build a grand illusion on top of it, but the core is still broken.”

It's not an easy book. It's about rape culture and misogyny and emotional abuse and the malignant idea that girls can't be predators, and that's never going to be an easy topic to handle. I definitely wouldn't call it a comfortable read.

But it felt TRUE. It felt so painfully real. And the author's note at the end had me crying worse than the book itself. The author wrote a letter to his former self, and I can't explain why it got me so hard, so I'll just let the words speak for themselves:
But a voice inside you kept telling you to hold on. That was me.
At the end, you were so tired. So fucking sad, worn down, empty. You almost didn’t make it. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to write this, to open my eyes and wake up as Elliot. But you carried us both here. You spent your whole life shouldering both of our burdens. I’ve got this now, Leah. You can rest. Thank you for holding on until I was ready.

Anyway. I've read books about trans people by cis writers who did a ton of research and talked to their friends. They were 'accurate'. Some of them felt true. But I don't think any of them could come close to the painfully honesty of something that clear drew so much on the author's own feelings and experiences, and it's going to be a while before I get over this one.

(Edit: apparently it helps if you read some of Wake's other novels first. That might explain why some of the secondary characters confused me a bit. But honestly, I got enough out of it as it was, I'm not sure how I'd have coped if I was as invested in the plot as in the writing.)
Profile Image for Michelle.
2,101 reviews1,263 followers
December 10, 2016
ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

 photo 7bed496d583a8d9a49acbed8cb1821_zpsqoezjetm.gif

Whether she was formerly known as Leah Raedar or now known as Elliot Wake, the only thing that should matter is the writing. And Elliot Wake’s Bad Boy speaks for itself. This book is a bold, provocative, and an intense romantic suspense that will raise and question everyone’s perception of gender, sexuality, and reasoning. Though this not my typical kind of read, I found myself enjoying Wake’s edgy voice and writing as he constantly pulls in the punches as he keeps readers on their toes. So why I couldn’t give this book the 4 or 5 stars since I enjoyed this book was simply due to the fact that I felt there at times there were scenes in the book that felt disjointed. But other than that, Wake did give his readers a story that will be talked about and any book that will stir readers to question and raise awareness on gender and sexuality then this book might be for you.

While this may not be my favorite read from this author, it will definitely not detract me from reading his future works.

 photo MICHELLE1_zps3515xymk.jpg

 photo goodreads_zpswfdmsygo.png  photo facebook_zps1wwq8tos.png  photo twitter_zps0xbxljb4.png  photo instagram_zpszijzfwbj.png  photo networked-blogs_zpsusd2vfmr.png
Profile Image for Grace {Rebel Mommy Book Blog}.
475 reviews170 followers
November 28, 2016
I am not even sure where I start this review. I was super excited for this book. I really enjoyed Cam Girl last year and knew I had to get this when I saw it. However, this didn't quite have the same feel or impact for me and I am not sure exactly why.

Part of it may be the focus on Black Iris, a vigilante group, and I assume the focus of the book Black Iris which I didn't read. I kind of felt a little lost with all of that at the beginning and it took me a minute to grasp the concept, the players, what they were doing, etc. It took me out of being fully immersed in the book. I kind of wish I had read Black Iris first and maybe that would have changed that aspect for me.I also felt the beginning moved a bit slow because of all this.

I did really enjoy when Ren - our main character - was focusing on his transition whether it be through flashbacks and his Vlogs. We get to see some of his vlogs throughout the book which center around his transition. They were really interesting. I liked we got to see his experience as well as how it affected those around him and their relationships.

Some parts with the Black Iris storyline seemed really over the top to me. I did like seeing Ellis again as I enjoyed her character in Cam Girl. Even though I didn't love the whole Black Iris part of the book I did like how it wrapped up and thought the second half moved along at a much better pace. There was some romance in the book which is always a plus for me. I mean it is a little dark but I expected that after reading Cam Girl so that wasn't a bad thing.

I guess this wasn't exactly what I was expecting so I think it is more of "It's not you, it's me" thing than anything else. I did still enjoy it, just not as much as I hoped.This review was originally posted on Rebel Mommy Book Blog
Profile Image for talon smith.
709 reviews117 followers
November 12, 2016
I liked this book because I love Blythe, Armin, Laney, and Ellis. I loved Black Iris. So that is a plus...?

Bad Boy is actually very melodramatic and actually kind of hmm, "weird". I found the whole idea of "Black Iris" very unrealistic in this book and it made me see Laney, Blythe, Armin and Ellis in a different view point. I found them to be rude, heinous, sad and honestly I think I would have preferred not to see them again at all because Elliot ruined them for me. There, I said it. I didn't like how he portrayed them at all. I wish he had actually compiled a whole new story line and plot for Bad Boy and Ren. I feel like I would have actually enjoyed the book more.

So, one minute we are following Ren around Umbra with Black Iris and all of their plans and the next minute Black Iris gets thrown in the back seat for pretty much the ENTIRE book and we are kind of just thrown into Ren's struggle with transitioning into a male and his struggle with his personal life. So yeah, I'm a tad confused as to what the plot of this story is. A trans gendered man struggling? Or crime fighting vigilantes? I feel like it was 87% a memoir or autobiography of Elliot's personal life.

And that's OKAY! I just don't feel like the two other plots should have been thrown in there if that was the case. Give it a different story completely.

The writing wasn't even as good as Unteachable or Black Iris. Where was the prose? The flow? I would recommend reading Black Iris first (which was tremendous) because it follows the same people and story line. But at the same time, if you read Black Iris first and absolutely love it I'm afraid you won't like Bad Boy.
Profile Image for Sarah/DragonflyReads.
712 reviews164 followers
February 9, 2017
so good photo sogood.gif

*edited to add - if you're not an open-minded individual, or possibly weirded out by a trans sex scene, this may not be the book for you. It's so much more than romance but might not be for everyone.

This is my first venture into Elliot Wake's twisted and poetic world. Bad Boy hit on all levels for me. Witty, incredibly smart, tragic, vengeful, the list goes on! I've got to be completely honest, I'm not a stranger to LGBT romance as I frequently read M/M, but this was my first venture into anything trans and it was completely eye opening. I can only image the thoughts going through Elliot's head while writing this deeply personal story. Personal being Ren's transition from female to male, not necessarily Elliot's own venture with Black Iris.

"It felt so real. From a distance, it would look just like the real thing. A boy and a girl, falling in love. But all of this was mere illusion. Like me."

At any rate, I am completely addicted to Wake's writing style and will now start from the beginning and read Leah Reader's books so I can completely catch up in the world of Black Iris.

I almost forgot to mention Ren's epilogue. That epilogue! Satisfaction to the nth degree! I'm so happy it was written that way because Ren needed the princesses in his life like he needed his last breath.
Profile Image for Vanessa J..
347 reviews604 followers
Want to read
September 4, 2015
Is it enough of an excuse to say that I want to read this because Leah Raeder is the author? For me, it is. She's the sole author in the NA genre for whom I have faith - the only author I can trust will write nothing that will offend me in any way. We need more writers like her - in both NA and YA. Needless to say, I'm really excited for this book, even when I have read neither Black Iris nor Camgirl.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 188 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.