March 11, 2011

review: i am j

I Am J – Cris Beam
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.


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.

Reading Level: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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