Review by Booklist Review
Part one of this captivating four-part novel is the first-person account by gay 16-year-old Jules of his life as a sophomore at L.A.'s Earl Warren High School and meeting Jack, the new kid in town, for whom he feels an instant attraction. Part two tells the same story but, in a Rashomon sort of way, from Jack's first-person point of view. More traditionally, parts three and four switch back and forth between the two boys' perspectives. In due course, readers learn that Jack is a gay transgender male, although no one is aware of this until someone cruelly outs him. Jules is devastated that Jack hasn't told him the truth, and the boys' budding relationship is ruptured. Can it possibly be restored? Sie's splendid novel is no stranger to surprises and suspense, which keep the pages turning, but it's the fully realized, multidimensional characters that are the story's real attraction. Both Jules and Jack are wonderfully appealing characters who will capture readers' hearts, and watching their personal development and that of their relationship are what really hold readers' attention. Jack's transgender identity is sensitively handled in the spirit of Meredith Russo's novels, making this a superb addition to the growing body of transgender literature.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Two boys enter their sophomore year of high school hoping to start fresh in Sie's (Still Life Las Vegas) sharply written YA debut. Basketball player Jules Westman, who is white, cisgender, and Jewish, has recently come out as gay, while Indian American film buff Jack Davies is concealing his trans identity during a temporary move from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles. The two are drawn to each other, but just as their relationship starts to blossom, Jack is outed against his will and must navigate being in the spotlight. Jules, meanwhile, struggles with his feelings for Jack--which, he begins to realize, haven't changed with the revelation. Alternating between the boys' points of view, Sie creates a memorable character in Jack, whose narration includes stream-of-consciousness blog posts. Though lovely, tender moments of connection warm the heart, the relentless hostility Jack faces (including racism, transphobic bullying, misgendering, invasive questions, and a violent transmisogynistic attack on his best friend) at times overwhelm the sweetness, making this a difficult, potentially triggering read. Readers who perservere, though, will find a gripping story in Jack's resilience and Jules's loyalty. Ages 14--up. Agent: Christopher Schelling, Selectric Artists Literary. (May)
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Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up--Told in alternating points of view, this realistic romance revolves around two "new kids" who explore the bounds of their identities. Accustomed to molding himself into whatever best fits his mother's latest cause, Jules doesn't typically assert himself and has spent the past few years moving among private schools based on his parents' whims. Now that he is entering public school for the first time in years, Jules decides to come out to his friends and family. When he meets Jack, he feels an instant connection. Jack is still reeling from a traumatic experience that imploded his closest friendship with Evie, his co-star in a YouTube channel where they discussed transitioning and provided support for other trans teens. Needing to escape, Jack follows his father across the country and begins "The Grand Experiment"--where he enters school as a seemingly cis boy and refrains from building any close relationships that might jeopardize his secret. As Jules and Jack become closer, Jack wants to be completely honest, but will Jules react positively? This story features a diverse cast, including Jules, who is white and Jewish, and Jack, whose dad is white and mother is Indian. Sie's stark depiction of the transphobia that Jack faces (even from the LGBTQIA+ community) is commendable, but also may be traumatizing for many trans teens. Ultimately, though the resolution of this book is affirming, readers should be aware that the central conflict centers on negative reactions to Jack's trans identity. VERDICT Although this is recommended for purchase, make sure to also have positive, trans-affirming titles on hand such as Aiden Thomas's Cemetery Boys and Amy Rose Capetta's The Brilliant Death.--Catherine Cote, John Champe H.S., Aldie, VA
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A cisgender boy and a transgender boy navigate bullying and a budding romance. Jules, a White, Jewish cis boy, is about to begin his sophomore year of high school in Los Angeles. He is instantly intrigued by Jack, a mysterious and aloof new arrival from Pittsburgh. Their shy flirtation seems to be leading to more until someone sends out a video revealing that Jack is trans. Jules' mother and friend say a gay guy shouldn't date a trans guy, but Jules' heart tells him otherwise. Although the author does not shy away from depicting transphobia and bullying--including the use of a slur--the overall tone is hopeful, and this is, in the end, a realistic, sensitive depiction of a trans boy. In one powerful scene, the author captures the intense discomfort of being asked invasive personal questions while your supposed allies let you down. On the other end of the emotional spectrum, the boys' romance is tender, sweet, and endearingly awkward. As Jack himself points out, there are few media depictions of cis and trans men dating. This book is a welcome and successful entry into the category. Jack's mother is Asian Indian; his multiracial father is White-passing. Sie incorporates Jack's intersectional identities into the story, as he is faced with racism and seeks a closer connection to the Indian heritage he knows little about due to a family rift. A touching, romantic, and rewarding read. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.