An agnostic, bigender teen moves in with their Catholic aunt and uncle after being sexually assaulted.
Chapter headers indicate if the protagonist currently identifies as Aleks (male, using he/him pronouns) or Alexis (female, using she/her pronouns). Aleks/Alexis cuts off all contact with their cosplay community after these former friends enabled their assault. When Aleks/Alexis discovers that their new room beside the church allows them to overhear confessions, they decide to secretly aid troubled parishioners. When they hear the confession of a priest who is molesting boys—and when their uncle, the priest receiving confessions, absolves him rather than stepping in—Aleks/Alexis determines that drastic action is needed. Aleks/Alexis narrates in a heavy first person that is colored by the shame, anger, and self-hatred they feel as a result of their trauma. The novel’s strongest element is the authentic bigender representation: Aleks/Alexis’ frequent ruminations on their relationship to gender and presentation ring resoundingly true. Though Aleks/Alexis’ parents model an excellent support system, readers should prepare for intense transphobia and homophobia from other characters. Unfortunately, the story’s pacing is off-kilter, with some elements rushed and others overly convenient. Though some character moments feel real, others lack nuance. Olive-skinned Aleks/Alexis has Russian Jewish heritage on their dad’s side; their crush, Sister Bernadette, has brown skin; the ethnicity of most other characters is not specified.
Authentic bigender representation is tempered by an ill-flowing narrative. (author’s note, topics for discussion) (Fiction. 14-18)