A must-buy that showcases three teen voices in free verse as they experience just a few of the myriad ways people experience gender nonconformity.
Brendan is a reluctant wrestler and a dutiful boyfriend. His social life is a minefield, his athlete friends casual with their homophobia. One dreadful day, the wrestling team all dresses as cheerleaders, just a joke—for everyone else. Vanessa is Brendan’s girlfriend, a wrestler herself. The only girl on the boys’ team, Vanessa defends herself against homophobia at school and a family who tell her, “No boy wants a rough girl.” Her love for Brendan is a signpost that she’s normal. Angel is an indomitable community college student who’s seen her share of the crap life throws at queer kids: beaten and rejected by her father, almost killed by a john. She works at the Willows Teen LGBTQ Center, helping other teens, says she’s “blessed to like me / the way I am,” and is unbent even by the vandalism Brendan commits in a fit of internalized transphobia. In alternating and distinct sections, these three young adults navigate love, family and society. Angel’s position at the LGBTQ center provides narrative justification for the occasional infodump. There are no simple answers, readers learn, but there will always be victories and good people. Though the verse doesn’t always shine, it’s varied, with concrete poems and duets keeping the voices lively.
This gutsy, tripartite poem explores a wider variety of identities—cis-, trans-, genderqueer—than a simple transgender storyline, making it stand out. (Fiction. 12-17)