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I am J

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An inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path - readers will recognize a part of themselves in J's struggle to love his true self.

"Hola, Jeni."

J spun. His stomach clenched hard, as though he'd been hit. It was just the neighbor lady, Mercedes. J couldn't muster a hello back, not now; he didn't care that she'd tell his mom he'd been rude. She should know better. Nobody calls me Jeni anymore.

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 by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he's done hiding - it's time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.

An inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path - readers will recognize a part of themselves in J's struggle to love his true self.

326 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Cris Beam

7 books77 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 660 reviews
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews65.8k followers
November 14, 2017
2/5 - Read for my young adult literature class.
Profile Image for Melinda.
402 reviews105 followers
September 21, 2014
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 character is a self-absorbed jerk with no capacity for self-reflection and unfortunately goes through absolutely no development in that respect
—the story got a little tiresome, especially with a lack of realistic and likeable characters
—for YA lit, it's pretty up-to-date on trans* politics — which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about the asterisk
—the use of Spanish in the novel wasn't obnoxious (I hate it when authors or TV shows use a line in Spanish and then repeat the exact same line in English, instead of letting the context show its meaning; here, the author did the latter)
—none of the female characters had any personality; now that I think about it, the male characters weren't much better either, tbh (J's parents and Chanelle got the closest, but Blue and Melissa were just boring props to J's story)
—gender stereotypes abound

In short, it might be a useful read for someone going through a similar situation, simply because of the lack of YA lit about trans teens, but as far as YA lit goes, it's not very good. And I’m waiting for the day YA authors write a trans guy character who isn’t a raging homophobe and misogynist, because I’m pretty sure it can be done.
Profile Image for Vone Savan.
Author 2 books72 followers
April 11, 2011
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 of us, identity and purpose just changes and bends and morphs into something new as we encounter different stages of life. It’s a natural part of being human. In the novel, I Am J by Cris Beam, a seventeen-year-old transgender named Jenifer Silver (he goes by the name J) faces his personal struggle for identity and purpose.

J was born as a female, but all his life, he inherently felt male. He began to realize this because even as a very young child he had male proclivities. He was attracted to girls; he wanted to wrestle with boys; and he peed standing up. But his emotions of feeling like a male were beyond these examples. It was something visceral and profound – almost indescribable. But because of his parent’s (Manny and Carolina) and society’s strict definition of what it means to be male and female, J was never able to express what he felt. If anything, he was encouraged to repress it.

The novel starts with J’s intentional, but harmless kiss on the lips with his best friend Melissa, while she was sleeping. This prompts Melissa’s commonly dramatic behavior to come out once she realizes what was happening. She ends up telling J to go home…and then later the next day, sends him an email stating that they need a break from each other, even in spite of their long-term friendship. Though J was deeply hurt by this decision, it also fueled his desire to leave his “comfortable” environment, and take the risk that he’s always wanted to take: start his transformation into a full-on male. That is the where the novel really takes off.

The only negative thing I will say about the novel (to get it out of the way) was that in the beginning, I was slightly turned-off by the didactic prose of Beam’s writing. But as I kept reading, I easily got over it because it became unnoticeable. Beam’s writing ended being great.

I love this book…and here’s why: I Am J kept me interested. When I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about what J was planning on doing next, and how the book would eventually unfold. But beyond this, there was so much more to enjoy and appreciate. The novel was so smart and educational and touching and relevant and thoughtful and many, many other great adjectives.

Right away, the one thing I appreciated was how Beam was able to educate the reader on the differences between being a masculine lesbian and a transgender. She did a great job dissecting and explaining the physical and emotional differences; something that I wanted and needed to know as a reader.

I also loved how Beam fully fleshed out the main characters. I loved that J had a talent in photography; and that Melissa had deep emotional issues; and that Carolina was a contradiction. This gave the book life and a relatable, necessary quality; a quality that people needed to understand in order to empathize with the characters. Beam easily accomplished this.

But the one thing I was most impressed with was what I was able to extract from the book – and that was lessons in humanity. Before I read I Am J, I predicted certain themes and elements that I thought would be in the book. Themes like self-discovery and situations relating to the harsh reality of discrimination and homophobia, which Beam did talk about. But there was another layer of the book that I didn’t predict, and was pleasantly surprised by.

I Am J illustrated the concept of beauty in conviction, and that the only person who can truly define who you are and what you can make of yourself…is you. I loved how J didn’t give into the criticisms and judgments from his provincial environment or society’s outdated values. I also appreciated J’s unwavering confidence and strength that helped him fight off the self-loathing that can easily manifest from similar circumstances. J was able to define his own self-worth. He did not let anyone else define who he should or should not be. That’s a lesson I love!

One last great lesson I extracted from the book is its advocacy of “not judging a book by its cover.” For example, in the beginning chapters, I didn’t like Melissa, but as I kept reading, I began to understand her character more and more. And by the time she did her AMAZING dance recital, I loved her. (Side note: Melissa’s gutsy rawness in her dance scene was magnificent!)

This novel definitely pushes people to see beyond the outside, the exterior, and to really relate and delve into the interior of a person before forming opinions. When a novel is able to dig deep and open reader’s eyes to something this great, then the book gets nothing but kudos from me.
Profile Image for Serith.
263 reviews10 followers
October 7, 2013
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 killing me to have to write a negative review for a book with progressive themes and such a lovely cover (omg just look at that cover) ...but I have to be honest.

Let’s go back to the start.

J is a quiet guy. Being antisocial is acceptable, but he seemed to crutch on transphobia when it was his personality that the other characters responded to. Maybe they were phobic, but there was no confirmation. They never said anything offensive. So it was a little bit of a quick draw to call it prejudice instead of –you know– taking responsibility for what he was saying. Here is an example: there was an early scene where a guy at a party expressed concern for a girl who was selling sex to a bunch of guys. First J zoned him out and made an inappropriate comment about how that was cool. He went so far to actually wish he could have been one of the guys buying a blowjob from her. Uh. Wow. Yay prostitution? (I thought he was crushing after the other girl?) THEN he makes a comment not caring about “some dumb-ass bitch” out of nowhere. It was unprovoked! AND THEN he was shocked when the guy called him an asshole after. He was all like, “What went wrong?” …seriously? WHAT WENT WRONG? Dude. I just…

I can’t see past that; it was a part of J’s introduction. I wanted to walk away like the guy that he just angered.

Oh, and J was homophobic. There is nothing worse in the world then being mistaken as a “dyke”, right? Ouch. (Lesbians hate this word, just for the record) I get it – J is a straight male. And that’s great and all, but was it necessary to express that at the expense of the gay community? Answer transgender hate with homosexual hate?

It was offensive.

Now, I did read a few reviews before shutting it just to make sure I wasn’t giving up on a character with the potential to develop into a decent human being. It was confirmed that he never changes and it sealed the deal. Sorry. :c
Profile Image for Daniel.
282 reviews28 followers
April 17, 2023
Nope ... can't go on ... DNFing at 66%. 😖 This is one I was excited about and I bought a used copy (as it's not available from my library and 9 freakin' dollars on Kindle! 🙄). I literally just threw it in my trash can. 'Nuff said. 😒
Profile Image for hal.
778 reviews106 followers
December 21, 2015
Actual rating: 2.5 stars
I have mixed feelings about this book. Which seems to be a common thing in books I have read recently. Huh.

There definitely is some good in this book. Firstly, hooray for diversity!! Transgender people are so underrepresented in books, TV and other media, so it's wonderful to finally see them getting some representation. I also thought Blue is an interesting character, although she's a minor character. But she did have some potential. And I guess the writing's not too bad. Sometimes it felt flat, but it wasn't annoying.

There were a lot of things I didn't like though. J is just not an interesting character. He has nothing that makes him stand out. Also, he acts like an asshole sometimes. For instance, in the first or second chapter, J is at a party and another guy comes up to him and starts talking about a girl who is doing sexual things for money upstairs. This other guy is concerned for her and thinks they should intervene, but J doesn't give a damn and calls her a "stupid ass bitch" or something. And then J is all confused when the guy gets mad at him. Dealing with hard stuff is not an excuse to be an asshole. So, I just didn't particularly like J. I felt sorry for him, but I didn't truly care. Also, all of the side characters are so boring, with the exception of Blue. I just didn't care about anyone.

There is also a lack of direction in the plot. Nothing is happening, really.

And, this is a minor thing that didn't affect my rating, but I just have to say: I really hate the cover.

Overall, this wasn't a bad book and I applaud the inclusion of a transgender character- not as a minor, side character but as the protagonist. But it definitely had a few flaws. So, I'd say 2.5 stars
Also, this is not the author's fault but it's something I'd like to rant about.
So, you know how on the back of a book, usually there's a section called "Praise for (insert book title here)"? Well, in "Praise for I am J", one of the quotes praising the book uses an offensive slur against transgender people

The exact quote is:
" Until I am J came along, I didn't know I'd been desperately lacking a tr*nny Holden Caulfield in my life. Smart and sensitive, but with just the right amount of rage bubbling over, J is an inspiring and courageous ambassador for any twenty-first century kid trying to figure out who and what he or she (or anything in between) is in this world."

The quote is complimenting a book about a transgender character, yet it uses a slur (the word in bold) that is offensive to many people. How did NO ONE catch and fix this mistake???? Maybe I'm overreacting (although I saw other reviewers addressing it, so perhaps not), but I find that extremely upsetting and I think that's NOT okay!!!! Again, that is not the author's fault at all, but it really upsets me.
Profile Image for Brooke Johnson.
Author 9 books57 followers
October 31, 2011
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 the main characters are everything that I am not, and I still managed to connect with them). I thought I would be able to connect on an emotional level, but the story is not emotional. It is a cut and paste of what process a transguy has to go through to become more physically a man and the struggles he faces along the way. Fascinating read, and undeniably well-written, but there was no emotional connection.

I pitied J and the issues he dealt with, but I didn’t feel his pain. The other characters in the story didn’t evoke any sort of reaction either. They were all missing something human. They just didn’t feel like real people They felt like soap opera characters with melodramatic lives.

I expected something spectacular, but the story just didn't deliver.
Profile Image for James.
3 reviews2 followers
December 18, 2019
This book is dangerous.
I have a lot of problems with this book. A LOT of problems. And they'll be listed in a little bit, but my biggest one is that this book is actively dangerous to any trans guys who pick it up.
J at one point looks into binding, and finds info on how to make your own binder. Now, ALL homemade binders aren't going to be very safe, and binding has inherent risks in general, but the fact that this book gives clear instructions on how to make a binder out of ACE bandages is what makes me so mad.
Binding with ACE bandages can and will deform ribs, can break them, and could (potentially) kill you (though I'm unsure if there are any recorded instances of that happening). ACE bandages work (for their intended purpose - reducing swelling) by compressing more any time they detect more swelling. This means that every time you breathe, the bandages tighten more. Every. Single. Breath.
This being in the book is bad enough, but the book also NEVER says that it's dangerous. He spontaneously has a binder (a hand-me-down from someone else) but it's NEVER said, or even implied, that binding with ACE bandages is dangerous, nor does it ever mention that binding in general does have risks and isn't for everyone.

The other things
I'm not even going to deal with all of it, because in comparison to these, the other complaints are nothing and I can't be bothered.
-J calls ALL post-op genitalia "ugly" which is a disgusting, transphobic thing to say and is completely untrue.
-J is generally a jerk and is extremely sexist and homophobic. I get being upset when people think you're a lesbian when you're actually a trans guy, but he's awful about gay people in general, and about women.
Profile Image for Shawnta.
22 reviews21 followers
October 26, 2010
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 overweight teen would like this book, often feeling out of touch with his/her body, not wanting to indentify with their outward appearance, wanting to break free of the confines of skin, and yet, learning that there is a process that comes a long with change, and attaining this goal is sometimes met with great difficulty.

I could go on about the points of this book that were surprisingly precious, but do not want to give any spoilers.

Read it, show your friends, and fellow librarians!

Profile Image for Nicole.
1,166 reviews19 followers
June 29, 2011
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 absolutely a step in the right direction. I might even go so far as to call it the Annie On My Mind for transgendered youth with everything that implies.

My biggest beef with this novel comes from my own jaded adult perspective. J spends a good portion of the book complaining, “If only…then everything would be perfect”. If only his parents understood, if only he could kiss Melissa, if only he could take testosterone. His view of the world was rather naïve and limited, despite his rather progressive friends and surroundings.

The general tone of the novel was one of “I am not going to impart to you, the ignorant straight/gay reader, what it means to grow up transgendered. This is how it feels and don’t you see that I am no different from you…well, except that I am trapped in the wrong body and isn’t obvious how awful that is?” BUT honestly, that tone is inescapable in problem novels. So let’s put that aside for a moment.

Excusing the slightly pedantic tone, I think Beam did a nice job of bringing home the point that being trans is not a CHOICE. Below is a sampling of quotes to give you an idea of what you are in for. And, of course, there was an actual story to be had: in the process of discovering who she is, a boy calls his entire life into question—friends come and go, family is supportive and not, life is hard and he slowly makes his way along.

“How could he explain? It was 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 the blood.”

“When had he run from a fight before? Did becoming a boy mean becoming a pussy?”

“J wanted to know, more than anything, what it would feel like to be a guy kissing a girl. Not a girl pretending to be a guy, or a girl kissing a girl. Just a regular guy, on a regular day, copping the moves on a regular girl.”
43 reviews2 followers
May 11, 2015
i am a masculine trans person, and i thought this book could have been wayyy better. First off, the character is very immature for his age. He's 17, but acts maybe 14. What near-adult takes 200 dollars and thinks they can run away in New York City and survive more than a couple days? That was just ridiculous. Then his very superficial relationships with different girls and the immaturity that comes with that is also frustrating. Then he is homophobic and thinks he has to be misogynistic in order to pass as masculine, and he hardly grows from these flaws by the end. I'm afraid that people are going to read this to get a sense of what trans people go through and think his personal flaws are a part of his trans identity. I also don't like the way the character himself remains ignorant about basic trans things, and it isn't addressed by the end. The end is very superficial as well and unlikely, and he has hardly grown as a character.
Profile Image for Chris.
89 reviews
September 25, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Claire.
798 reviews93 followers
December 24, 2010
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 see what they think because I don't know how much of my appreciation for this book comes from my being old - well, 31 - but I hope they find value in it where I do.

This isn't the polished review it ought to be, but it is my fresh-off-the-presses thoughts.

For me, the pros of this book far outweigh the cons, which is a slightly heavy-handed awkwardness and some pieces that need more fleshing out.

Things I loved:
- J is temperamental, unsure of the questions and the answers, self-centered, and has little perspective or ability to look beyond the moment, and that is TOTALLY believable to me.
- The pronouns - nicely done from the get-go!
- The setting - smart!
- Chanelle! It would have been so easy to make her the wiser, perfect, older voice. She's super smart and a mentor/friend. (OH MY GOD, SHE READS RITA DOVE AND WRITES SPRUNG RHYTHM. MAYBE THAT PART ISN'T TOTALLY REALISTIC BUT I AM DELIGHTED) But like J, despite the clunkiness, she seemed real, imperfect, young in her perspective and decisions. I totally believed in the core of her as a character - or at least I believed that her voice came from a real teen, somewhere.

Most of all, and this is why I want this book in every library and GSA, the INFORMATION. Oh my gosh, when Chanelle calls and asks about the dorms and bathrooms? Could you model it any better? Information about T! Unrealistically high expectations! Binders! Shelters and resources! Bathrooms! This is a book that I think holds a lot more value as a mirror than a window: there is so much good information, well-presented, that is sorely needed and very, very rare. I think a lot of the response to this one will be lukewarm, from cisgendered, mostly straight readers, saying "now I know more about things that face transgender teens," and that's fine. But, whatever, that's what Julie Anne Peters is for*. This is a whole different thing - not an issue book but an information book. I don't care if it is too clunky to change minds or provide a window for straight readers; I care deeply that it provides good information in an accessible form for kids that may desperately need it.

This friend of mine, newly coming out and grappling with his gender identity and not sure where to go for information, went to his gym teacher and asked if she had any books about "gay stuff." She sent him to the librarian, whom she tipped off in advance so that there were books waiting in a bag waiting for him behind the desk. This was last year. He's web-savvy. He's smart. And he still turned to books (and a visibly queer adult) as the first/best source of information. I wish this book had been in that pile. I wish I'd been that librarian.

One more thing: although I think that I am J won't make mainstream lists as an evocative, powerful crossover read, it still absolutely tugged at my heart. I sat in a restaurant for an hour after I'd finished eating because I wanted to know what happened next. I gasped several times, I got teary, my jaw dropped a few times. I had quibbles** but I believed it. It's not dry by any means. I feel totally inadequate to express how very, very valuable and powerful the information bookness of it is. I want to see this on the Rainbow List and every GLBTQ book list for years.

*For the record, I think this is what Julie Anne Peters does poorly. If she did THIS, I would be a fan.

-I know what Aggressives are - do teen readers outside of NYC, even queer teens?
-I wish the relationships with the parents and the other characters had been more developed.
-Zak's quick recovery from his top surgery. Really?
-Not much space or discussion of identities that fall outside the gender binary: off the top of my head, I remember that the support group represents the spectrum, but I can't remember a loud/visible genderqueer character.
Profile Image for Mira Meteo.
399 reviews
September 2, 2019
My friend Katherine was reading this book, and being greatly involved in LGBT+ rights, I simply had to pick this book up, seeing as how little queer representation there is in our media. However, the first thing I noticed about this book before starting was how on the back of the book with reviews, a reviewer casually used a transphobic slur -- how that made the cut is beyond me -- and I took that as a sign of things to come. And, man, I probably should have listened.

First of all, the writing. The writing is very clunky and doesn't flow smoothly at all. The sentences are mostly all very bland, same structure, no description. After the first chapter or two I managed to get over it and become used to the style, but it's very obvious in the beginning, and sort of hard to get through.

Second, the plot itself was a bit, what's the word I'm looking for?, rushed. Different events happened so quickly and with barely any time to process what just happened. You go from J being fine at home to committing truancy, and suddenly he's half-dating a girl he just met. The whole arc with Blue was rushed and unnecessary, and it came completely out of nowhere. The subplot dealing with Melissa's self-harm issues was forced and played no part in the novel other than being there to seem as a sort of "look at me, I'm including relatable stuff in here." Many times, characters also seemed brash and made decisions rashly, just to make a 180-degree turn two paragraphs later. Coming out scenes also seemed very rushed, which I understand, as coming out, especially to parents, is something you want to get over with as quickly as possible. But in this case these scenes seemed rushed not in a realistic way, but in a way that implied the author didn't really understand what it was like (she is cis though). In general, though, the author, for a cisgender woman, portrayed a mostly realistic trans experience (which you gotta give her props for; it's hard for cis people to understand), and the problem lay ninety-five percent of the time in the actual execution of the plot more than the portrayal of it.

My third set of problems with the book lie more in social justice-related issues than the writing itself. Like I said above, the author portrayed a trans boy's struggle pretty realistically for a cis woman. However, there were several slips that really showed she isn't trans, which takes away from the relatability of J's character. First of all, there were many slips of "being born female," which is understandable in J himself as he struggles to comprehend his feelings, but even later in the book and when in reference to other trans people he meets, he uses problematic phrases such as "born a man/woman" instead of "born with a penis/vagina." Also, one of the minor characters, Zac, does at one point use the slur "tr*nny" (the one that was in the review on the back of the book). Trans men cannot reclaim that slur, as it was created to dehumanize trans women, and the author should have taken more time to research slurs to avoid that and redact the one on the book's review.

Overall, this book did not live up to my expectations. I was eager since queer people get so little representation, but I was somewhat disappointed. Even if someone had told me that the book was bad beforehand, I probably still would have read it as I want to read books with representation, but at least I would not have gotten my hopes up as much.


DISCLAIMER: My review of this book in no way represents my view of transgender individuals. I am nonbinary gender variant, and many of my friends are also trans. All my problems lay with the handling of the plot, writing, and the book itself.
Profile Image for Hderaps.
16 reviews5 followers
January 29, 2011
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 count. To schoolmates, teachers, parents, relatives, strangers on the street. Gender is not changeable, but fixed.

I Am J is the story of a teen who identifies as transgendered. He was born "Jennifer," but has changed his name and hos outer appearance to "J." From the start, this story is well-written and seems to capture the inner struggles and thoughts of J. Every bit about J's thoughts and his need to be accepted as a teen boy ring true. Just as a typical teen girl might try to match her teen role models, J watches young men to model his actions and reactions. Even so, learning the postures of other men is not enough; J wants to be a man.

Even though he parents are somewhat supportive, they are not understanding J's situation completely. They think (or maybe even hope) that J is a lesbian; which is not true. J is attracted to girls, but he is a boy. He just has girl parts.

But, he may not have girl features and parts for long, if he can help it. He has heard of and researched hormone therapy, and desperately wants to turn eighteen so that he can start getting testosterone shots.

Unfortunately, he's not eighteen. And, problems at home are threatening to force J out of his family's apartment and onto the street. He has a the support of his friend Melissa, but she doesn't completely understand what he's going through. It isn't until J is away from his friends and family that he can truly transition to the man he wants to be--the young man that he is.

* * *

As a teacher, there is nothing more difficult and wonderful than helping teens to realize their visions of who they are and who they want to become. With most teens, this process thinking about possible career paths and interests, with others the process is more laborious and deep.

I have had the pleasure of working with a few teens who identify as transgendered. As I stated in this intro to this post, I do not know what this feels like. But, as an educator, there are lots of differences and situations that my students experience that I cannot identify with. Even though I cannot identify with the feelings and emotions of these students, I do have a responsibility to help them to find a safe place within our school where they will feel comfortable and a post-secondary experience that will allow them to transition to the next phase of their life comfortably.

This book will find a welcome space on my classroom shelves. I can only imagine the comfort that it could bring to a transgender teen to know that they are not alone--that there are others like them who might share similar feelings, thoughts, worries. Or, this book could open the mind of many non-transgender teens, those who don't know what it feels like to go through this transition. Either way, I am happy to have read this book and cannot recommend it enough. It is a must-have for classrooms and a should-have for others interested in learning more about this topic, or in reading a good book. Because, in the end, that's exactly what it is.
Profile Image for Eli.
716 reviews110 followers
June 8, 2016
DNF @ 189 (chapter 9)

I am very disappointed that I stuck with this for so long. I really thought that it would get better, but obviously it didn't.

The writing style was jarring and uncomfortable from the beginning. If this had flowed better, I probably could have finished it. Even despite the unlikable main character. I picked this up because I wanted to understand different perspectives of the queer experience. This was my first book with a trans MC, and he just wasn't likable as a person. He at times came off as homophobic, sexist, and a slut-shamer. There were no redeeming characters. I seriously liked none of them. And then the other queer kids were biphobic. Great.

I'm just going to stop here. I was remotely curious about the rest of the story, but I will probably just read someone else's review and be unimpressed but with more time to read something I will enjoy more.
Profile Image for Adam Fishbowl.
5 reviews1 follower
July 4, 2023
When I first found this book I was excited, hoping I would finally have something I could relate to as a trans man. Now, 259 pages later, I can only say this: that was one of the most god-awful books I have ever read. I have a lot to say about this book, so buckle up.

Anyways, so concludes my rant. There's probably more that I'm forgetting, but that's everything I can currently remember. The main point I'm trying to make is that this book is awful, and if you're trying to find good literary trans representation, I suggest you look elsewhere. Thank you.
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 76 books2,536 followers
August 19, 2014
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 coming out and starting to transition, F to M.

There are a lot of things I did like about this book. One of them was what felt like a very authentic description of how it feels to be F2M trans as a teenager. (At least, judging by what I hear from the young trans-guys I know.) The dissociation of mind and body, the sometimes violent dislike for body parts that shouldn't be there, the moments when J almost forgets he isn't "really" a guy, only to be brought crashing down by a casual word or comment or his birth name, the way a tiny word, like "she", can be a knife in the gut- all of that feels painfully plausible.

There is that sense of unreality, of being a mind in the wrong body. J describes how something which feels as natural and permanent and obvious as being a guy on the inside seems to be so universally and vigorously rejected by everyone else. He's told he's sick, he's wrong, he's just a butch dyke, and so on. And the knowledge that no matter how far he takes his transition, he will never have quite the body he believes he should live in, is a constant crushing reality.

I also appreciated the human, realistic teen that I felt J was. It's not common in YA for the main character to be allowed to be unsympathetic, to act like a jerk, to be self-centered and fixated on their own pain. And yet in the intense years of growing up, it's a rare teen who doesn't act that way to some degree. J is more self-centered in his stress and confusion and anxiety than most book characters are permitted to be.

The downside to that realism is that it is harder to connect with J as the hero of the story. When he speaks dismissively of gay kids, or puts his own pain over his best friend's, or uses a girl he likes more as a supporting piece of evidence than an actual person, he pushes the reader away as well. There will probably be readers who don't like the book because they fail to connect with J. But I thought his realism as a young human being trumped his less-than-sympathetic world view.

What lost the book a star for me, was the relative abruptness of the ending. The first 90% was drawn out stress, anxiety and pain, as J first figures out who he is and what he wants, and then takes tentative steps to move toward a goal, and to come out to family and friends. But then there is a sudden jumpy wrap up that moved too quickly for me. It felt like most of the book was spent describing the internal and external conflicts, and then the "it gets better" ending was slapped on fast. But opinions will obviously vary.

This is still worth a read, especially if you don't know any trans teens and wonder how that feels. There are some good secondary characters, a few small twists, and a positive ending.
August 13, 2013
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 times that I did, but over all it was fluffy feeling which is not what I expected.

Having known a few transgenders in varying stages of transition I had hoped for more depth, more understanding in this novel. It's tough for anyone to be a teenager. There is always that feeling of apartness (like no one can understand you), of sullenness or self-loathing that comes with that time in life. J has all that going on too, but on top of all that he hates being touched, hates himself, his body and his mind because he was wrongfully assigned at birth. I felt for him, deeply, but I didn't feel that Beam's writing did him justice. Beam's prose was too light and digestible for the subject matter, in my opinion.

Also, I found the ending just too much to take. That's probably the truth of why this is a three for me. Very anticlimactic and rather unbelievable to be honest. I wanted to love J. I ended up vaguely liking him which is okay but not what I was looking for from this novel.

Side Note: I learned a new term, which was interesting for me. Cisgender, meaning feeling correctly assigned body and mind at birth. Learning stuff, I like it :)
Profile Image for Krista the Krazy Kataloguer.
3,873 reviews268 followers
April 8, 2017
Interesting story told from the point of view of a girl who feels that he 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 he can't or is afraid to explain to people close to him how he feels, and isn't entirely clear on his feelings to begin with. Some people refer to him as lesbian, but that isn't the same thing. As the story progresses, J makes friends who accept him as male, and starts to feel a bit of self-confidence. I liked the idea of J, Blue, and Melissa being able to express their pain and bad feelings through their art--photography, painting, and dance, respectively, which serves as a catharsis for them. This book is sure to create much discussion if used with teens. An excellent effort, and one sorely needed. Recommended!
Profile Image for Chiara.
875 reviews219 followers
March 21, 2016
I was not a huge fan of our main character, J. I understand that he was trying desperately to conform to what he thought was masculine attitude ... but some of his comments had me narrowing my eyes. Guys can have feelings, too *gasp* And being called a lesbian is not the worst thing in the world.

His relationship with his best friend was a little off putting, as well. She was only attracted to J when she thought of him as completely male. Guuurl, you're either attracted to someone or not. You can't only be attracted to them sometimes. And what kind of message is that giving to J, anyway? *shakes head*

J's inner turmoil was a little tiresome at times, and I feel like some of this introspection could have been cut to make for a more fast paced novel.

I hated J's parents. Well, more specifically his mother. But I guess this could be an accurate representation of parents who are shitheads and refuse to come to terms with their child being different.
Profile Image for Dylan.
547 reviews226 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
June 6, 2016
Dnf'd at 75%

I just can't go on with this book. It's way too bland. But I'm still counting it as read since i read the majority.
Profile Image for Kyle Carson.
118 reviews15 followers
February 6, 2017
Oh, my lord. Where to start. I Am J is the coming of age tale of J, as he comes to terms with his gender identity. J uses his frustration and the prejudice he faces as justification for being a complete and total jerk. The whole plot involves J starting drama with his friends and family. Though this book is heavily about the transgender story and I can't speak to how well it reflects that, I will say there was plenty of other problematic material that turned me off.

First off, the best friend, Melissa, that up and "deserts" him does so after J kisses her while she's asleep, against her will. She kicks J out of her house and in an email tells him she needs some space afterwards. It's mentioned "If J was a real boy, it would be rape," which I have serious issue with. Just because J is biologically female-- and even if he identified that way as well-- kissing someone without their consent is still sexual assault. Women don't get excused from that behaviour simply for being women. Regardless, Melissa forgives him and they're friends again, despite J never showing remorse for what he did.

The book was also littered with homophobia, as well as some biphobia. J repeatedly stresses how being compared to a lesbian is "awful" and the "worst thing ever." I understand that he wants to be seen as a man, not a butch woman, but the way it was handled was incredibly hurtful. Moreso, during a classroom scene a biphobic comment is expressed by one of the kids: "For reals, this poet shoulda picked men or women or prostitutes. Bisexual's nasty." The other kids all agree and the teacher does nothing to challenge this. Meanwhile there is no representation of lesbian or bisexual characters. As well, we have a scene where J comes across a girl getting sexually exploited, and says he could care less about a bitch and leaves. Finally, after his parents express their love and support for what he's going through, J proceeds to run away and refuses to talk with them. When his mother sits him down to talk about his transition, she tells him that though she doesn't understand, she still loves him. Apparently that isn't good enough as J proceeds to cut contact with her for the most part. All of this and more made it incredibly difficult to find sympathy for J.

Not just in the plot elements, but in every scene J finds some way to be overly selfish, rude, or aggressive in an attempt to be more "masculine." I find this incredibly damaging, as it seemed to reduce being a man to only negative traits. Melissa is quite obnoxious and uses J throughout the book. She is a cutter and an awful representation of it. She is an attention-seeking cutter, right down to her "performance" where she cuts herself in front of an audience, yet she's somehow shocked she's sent to a psych ward afterwards. J's mom was awful for plot reasons, but those reasons could have been solved with some simple communication between J and his father. Their excuse for each other was, "Well, you didn't call either." It hardly felt realistic considering the circumstances. Meanwhile, J's father Manny is described as a complete monster by J, but that is never shown through any of his actions. If anything, he is open, communicative at times, and loving. He is ignorant, though not aggressive about it, but the fact that he calls J "Jeni" sometimes (before he even comes out) makes him some sort of monster.

The writing itself was very bland and clipped. Most sentences were short and to the point, often leaving scenes feeling abrupt. It's rare to say, but this story would have made a lot more sense told from first person point of view rather than third. J begins the book by seeing himself as a "head without a body," and after his assault on Melissa, decides to accept himself as a man. Yet the pronouns are 'he' from the beginning of the book, and though I suppose this is suppose to illustrate that J always had been a man, it just felt off with the narrative. The writing also jumps back and forth in time, often mid-scene, which can be a bit confusing. The flashbacks were incredibly prevalent and were often used to reinforce the scene currently taking place, which gave the sense of convenience. For example, we see flashbacks of Melissa and J's history right before the kiss, and we see flashbacks of why J hates swimming now mid-argument with mom, etc. etc. It's a version of telling through flashbacks instead of working that information organically into the narrative.

All in all, 1/5 stars. A character driven story with horribly unlikable characters.
Profile Image for Myffanwy Geronazzo.
Author 1 book5 followers
January 29, 2023
Oh my God, let me get all my feelings out.

First of all, I AM Trans, the author is not, so my feelings are reflective on how she writes the experience.

The author is an adult, writing about a transmasc teen so obviously the issue of realism is a problem but she keeps putting him in all these adult perspectives that's so beyond the scope of how actual teens think.

-What the FUCK is with the graphic depictions of self harm? Why is there so much detail and NO warning about it? JESUS. THESE ARE CHILDREN and the author treats GRAPHIC depictions of self harm with no care. It's used AGAINST the female character several times.

-The rampant misogyny in these books with transmasc leads is ATROCIOUS. J is an asshole. J SEXUALLY ASSAULTED his best friend and the friend is made to apologize for being mad about it. (Victim blaming)

-BTW the best friend has my dead name so that was fun. (NOT SCORE AFFECTIVE)

-glorification of unsafe binding practices

-glorification of medical transition and passing

-uneven story telling with the parents. Why did you vilify them? Why, after half a book of them being good characters did you suddenly decide that they were terrible and make them literally the most evil characters? What was the fucking point?

-the rampant transphobia for transwomen and people who don't pass.

-the graphic depiction of a minor soliciting sex to older men and the MC literally calls them names and doesn't help.

-weird lesbophobia??? Why??

-The main character is the biggest piece of shit. Entirely unredeemable. He is the most garbage character with no growth I've ever read I hate him. He is arrogant, entitled, rude, sexist, transphobic, misogynistic....just awful.

-if you've already introduced a trans character by their name, stop then dead naming them. Use [redacted] or avoid it and just say they were dead named. STOP TELLING US THEIR DEADNAMES IF THEY WERE INTRODUCED AS THEIR CHOSEN NAME.


I hate this book. I can't even donate it, it's going to the garbage, I hate it so fucking much. I have a personal grudge against Cris Beam for writing this shitshow.
5 reviews
January 24, 2018
The book “I am J” by is a bit all over the place. There are a few plot holes and slip ups, everything seemed very… rushed . It is about a transgender male named J, or Jason, who is going through a rough time of exploring his gender. People were leaving him left and right, he didn’t know what to do. He tries his best to get the point across that he is now a male, and now an adult. The jumpy and rushed plot deters the reader away from the overall storyline and message.
The plot as a whole is very rushed and frantic. The scenes change quickly, not even giving the reader a resting period to process what had happened. For instance, J goes from being fine at home, to skipping school, to sort of dating a girl, to breaking up, to making up? There wasn’t even closure between what had happened between the couple. For all the reader knows, they could’ve never dated at all. The author also mentions one thing after another, and never connects it to the plot, nor making a real reason for adding it. Melissa’s self-harm was honestly just another detail to add to the story. It didn’t develop her character, if anything it was contradictory to her personality. The self-harm just seemed to be an add on, or maybe the author trying to relate to people as much as she can. The book does technically cover LGBTQ+ topics and self-harm. Not in extreme depths, but it seems as if it’s just there so the author could say “I made a book with self-harm.” The final rushed scene was probably the most important. J coming out. Yes, coming out is a very serious and “once in a lifetime experience.” So, you’d want to take your time and explain yourself. Well, unfortunately the life-changing event was rushed and only consisted of the basic information any normal person would know. Overall, the book seems rushed and hasty.
Cris Beam’s writing style is extremely all over the place. Things are repeated, most sentences are dry, and nothing seemed planned out. It was as if she just sat down and wrote. There is little to no description in the story, and some chapters are practically useless. There are many mistakes, especially regarding LGBTQ+ related situations. The main mistake being how she wrote LGBTQ+. Instead of that, beam had written GLBT. It is surprising this type of mistake was allowed through editing. The entire book seemed as if there wasn’t any at all. All of these factors really distract the reader from the story, having them focus more on the plethora of plot holes and mishaps.
In conclusion, the book didn’t meet to expectations. There were many high hopes for an LGBTQ+ related book, but there was a lot of disappointment. If the author could rewrite the book, having everything connect, and adding details, then the book would be an exceptional addition to the rare collection of LGBTQ+ books.
Profile Image for Bronte Page.
84 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2021
While I appreciate that this book provides some representation for trans masculine people. I personally really didn’t like this book.

Firstly, literally no character in this novel is likeable. The main character J is misogynistic and very homophobic. When someone at a party expresses concern about a younger freshman girl being taken advantage of J straight up just goes “I don’t care about some dumb-ass b***h.” He is also constantly going on about he doesn’t want to be mistaken for a lesbian (while using derogatory language towards lesbians) and refuses to be associated with the gay and lesbian students at his high school to the point of mentally distancing himself by viewing them as if they were subjects in a nature documentary. He also has boundary issues kissing his best friend while she was sleeping then acusing her of leading him on when she calls him out about it. The entire first part of the novel reads like a classic “dude whinges about being in the friendzone” as he whinges and complains about the “pretentious” guys she’s into all the while mocking her in his internal narration for being “boy crazy”.

The best friend isn’t much better either. She is incredibly obnoxious and demeaning to J. She also treats his coming out horribly literally stripping down to try and force J to show her his body and then a few chapters doing a weird flip to instead become one of those “you’re so inspirational for being trans” sorts of people and trying to use him as her muse.

All other characters in the book are really one dimensional. We get: J’s asshole dad, his tries to make everything perfect mother, Blue the quirky art girl he kind of dates but is also low key homophobic , Chanelle the trans woman who is smart but dumb when it comes to love who serves to talk about poetry and give sassy advice and Zac the hot trans guy who is also getting a doctorate. No one is fleshed out well and there is absolutely no reason to feel attached to or like any of them.

I also had some concerns surrounding the way transgender issues were handled in the novel. The first was the way the novel discussed J binding with ace bandages without any sort of criticism or disclaiming that this is actually a really harmful thing to do. J later on in the novel has like a throwaway comment about how he now has a binder but there is still nothing said about how harmful binding with ace bandages is. I worry that as this is a YA novel some impressionable young trans kids may get the idea to bind with ace bandages from this book. I also just really disliked the use of the T-slur both in the novel and in a review on the cover. I think this novel highlights the issues with trans masculine stories being written by non trans masculine people (the author is a woman (presumably cisgender but I couldn’t verify this for sure).

Overall I wouldn’t recommend this novel.
Profile Image for Lawral.
169 reviews23 followers
March 2, 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 his experiences, though not universal (thankfully not everyone has to move out or change schools in order to transition, though some undoubtedly do), were realistic. I Am J was everything I hoped it would be.

But I did have a couple of problems. I found it hard to believe that J, who has been looking around on the internet for information and support since he was eleven, hadn't heard about T (testosterone injections) or a (chest) binder until he was seventeen. I'm willing to let that go as it allows the reader to learn about these things at the same time that J does. I don't think it would have been such a problem if the book wasn't so obviously written by someone who, like J's support group leader, "talk[s] about the 'gender binary' and 'those of trans-masculine identification' as easily as reciting the alphabet" (243).* Beam is a very very knowledgeable woman, as evidenced by her previous work of non-fiction, Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers. She seemed to have a difficult time balancing her wealth of knowledge with the naiveté of her narrator.

This may look like more criticisms than praise, but it's really not! I loved I Am J, and I applaud Beam for taking on the issue of transitioning in the context of cultural and familial expectations, and the fallout from not meeting those expectations, in an accessible and authentic way. Not to mention that she wrote a pretty great story of a teen trying to find his direction and place in the world, regardless of all the issues that J has to deal with. I think this is a must buy for libraries serving youth; it's Luna for the guys.

Book source: ARC provided by the publisher.

*Quotes and page numbers are from an uncorrected proof and may not match the published copy.
Profile Image for Marianna.
12 reviews
February 26, 2018
The main reason I am giving this book three rather than four stars is because I feel as though the time in my life during which I read this book lessened its impact on me. I think if I read this book my senior year of high school or even at the beginning of college, it would've made more of an impact on my life. However, as a seasoned queer reader, I still believe this story had a good deal to offer. It's so important for young queer readers, allies, and perhaps older readers who don't have much exposure to transgender communities and knowledge of transgender experience.

There were many things I enjoyed, first being the familial drama. J a very trans/homophobic father and his mother is supportive even though she is confused and afraid. The book portrays a realistic conflict in different parenting styles and values that come out when parents are tested with something like coming to terms with a queer child. Throughout the book J knows he may be disappointing his mother by transitioning, but realizes, "maybe all kids disappoint their mothers in the end" (251). That's something any reader can find solace in, queer or not.

I loved the complex relationships between J and different women in the book. I like the exploration of not only J's experience of gender but the sexualities of the women in his life. J has issues coming to terms with his gender identity, but once he finds out what "transgender" means, he knows that's what he is. He has also always known he's liked women but had always been very uncomfortable with the label of lesbian. He loves women as a man. His main relationships with women are his best friend Melissa, who he has been close to his whole life; a girl who doesn't know he's trans named Blue, who he meets and gets into a romantic relationship with fairly quickly; and Chanelle, a transgirl he meets at school who acts as somewhat of a misguided a mentor for J. All of these relationships are realistic and help illuminate the complexities of J's identity but also the complexities of gender and sexuality in general.

Melissa and J are as close as can be, and at the outset of the book J has been in love with her for a while, before he realizes he is trans. We learn that Melissa is confused about how she feels for J. They kiss one night and she freaks out and blames him and tells him that she is not a lesbian and just wants to be friends. Later in the book we learn that Melissa actually is attracted to J, but only at the times when she perceives him as a man. This is a surprisingly complex yet accessible way of looking at attraction because it implies that simple categories of "gay," "lesbian," and "straight" do nothing to help explain Melissa's experience.

The book implies that loving a transperson can have the effect of showing how constructed gender is and how societal definitions and categories are suffocating because they do little to explain what it is to be a desiring being. Melissa only experiences attraction to J when she perceives him as more masculine, but we are left to debate over whether that is because of internalized homo/bi-phobia, that she cannot "go there" and allow herself to be attracted to someone born female; or if it is simply because she only feels attracted to masculinity and thus only attracted to J when she perceives him as more masculine. There are no easy answers, and this is only further complicated by the fact that the book takes place before J physically transitions; this is a book about liminality.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Blue who has no idea J is trans and therefore loves him and is attracted to him as a cisman. This is ideal for J at first but then he slowly realizes that keeping his GI from Blue is leading her to feel distanced and unwanted because so much of what he is going through and dealing with on a day-to-day basis is a result of his gender, e.g., being homeless, dropping out of his school, going to therapy, getting T, etc. J realizes at the end of their relationship that he was more in love with the way Blue made him feel than he was with her. Their relationship was built on secrecy and J lying about many areas of his life not limited to gender. He "wasn't sure if he loved Blue or if he loved the way she saw him-- as a male named Jason... a heterosexual, normal guy, whatever that was" (284).

Melissa seems to represent J being perceived as a liminal body in transition while Blue perceives him as a normative cisman, and Chanelle is able to empathize with J as they're both transgender. Exploring both how J feels "inside" and how others perceptions of him affect him is really important. It's a nuanced thing to be able to see J explore the difference between being loved as a man v a woman, and the difference between him loving as a man and a woman.
Then there are the other things I liked; J's journal he keeps to record his observations of men; the juxtaposition of Melissa's self harm and J's journey; J's reluctance to go to a support group for transmen; discussions of toxic masculinity, J struggling to be a "man" but also fighting against misogyny and the unemotional, indifferent, and careless ways men treat women they "love."
I really appreciated getting to know J as liminal character, on the threshold of transition, of coming of age, of being half Jewish and half catholic Puerto Rican, of trying not to kill certain "feminine" parts of himself to be a man.

The one thing I didn't like that really stuck out was that J's neighbor kind of swoops in as J comes out to to defend his identity to his mother. Up until that point we have no idea this neighbor has any affiliation with the queer community and it just seemed like a cop out to have a character swoop in and save the day and reveal that she has a trans nephew and former trans neighbors. It seemed out of place and too good of a coincidence.

I've seen other reviewers very angry about J's homophobia, and I have to defend this. Being transgender does NOT equate to being gay, or even queer for that matter. J wanted to be a "normal" cis straight guy and his disdain about being called a "dyke," and even referring to himself using that word, was a product of internalized homophobia due to others mislabeling him as a lesbian and a woman. So while it's not right that J used that language (and also called a woman a "bitch" at one point) should be read as an indicator of the toxic masculinity straight cis men (or ASPIRING "normal" straight men) must navigate. We know that J never felt comfortable with or identified with gays and lesbians in his life. He meets many queer peers and doesn't connect with any of them, because his experience as a transman is vastly different than their experiences of gay and/or lesbian subjectivity.

Overall, this book makes very complex issues accessible for a wide audience. I can imagine what a gift this book is especially for younger queer kids to read
Profile Image for Lydia.
966 reviews8 followers
August 18, 2013
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 my opinion and what I know of teens, this just did not make common sense to me.

I was also offended by some of the terms Beam used in the novel. I have not heard extensive use of the terms "transgirl, transboy, gender variant" and a few other terms she uses, even though Beam states she is acquainted with the LGBT world. J's world, especially as a child of a mixed ethnic/religious background, does not ring true to me. I could not help but wonder where the father's Jewish family members were and what roles they might have played. I also found the name "Manny" unusual for a Jewish male, while "Carolina" also seemed unusual for a Puerto Rican mother.

The pace of the book seemed to bog down in the middle with the long passages about J's changing feelings, the running away, and the relationships J develops. There is never a clear picture of the past J has endured and therefore the character does not seem to come "alive".

All in all, this was an extremely disappointing novel for me. I'm sure it will be very popular in the LGBT YA world; however, I'm not sure it fully deserves the praise that it has received.
Profile Image for Hilary.
214 reviews2 followers
June 28, 2012
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, but am now more aware and sympathetic of. The secondary characters are real, too, which is nice (even if they do show up EXACTLY when J might need a guardian angel or word of wisdom) and there is another troubled-teen subplot (cutting) that is more common and dealt with authentically. Beam also does a good job of making city life for teens real--most my former suburban students, for example, would certainly be shocked that J sleeps on a pullout couch in the living room and uses a trunk as a dresser.

Some researcher type people have decreed that YA books about LGBTQ issues (yes, I know, I'm missing letters of the acronym, like I and A...) fall into one of three categories, the most popular of which is the "coming out" or "visibility" narrative. This is one of them. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
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