Lena Prodan–The Suicide Year

The What: Nameless Protagonist (no, really, zie doesn’t have a name) lives on a military base. Hir father is physically abusive, hir mother is mentally unstable, and zie hirself is transgendered and suicidal. Add in fairweather friend Eric, their mutual crush Alex, and lots of drug-soaked trips to the local porn theater between church group hiking trips, and you’ve got yourself a premise.

The Good: The main character is easy to care about. Zie has so little to look forward to, and receives so little love and affection from the other characters, that it was impossible not to root for hir in hir quest to hike the Appalachian Trail and find love. Prodan gets props from me for finding a new story to tell in the often repetitive world of YA lit: I can’t say that I have ever read nor heard of another story whose protagonist is a nameless, overweight, female-to-male pre-or-non-op transsexual military brat.

The Meh: Numerous typos inhibited my enjoyment of this book. Sneaky grammar problems would be one thing, but “sheer” instead of “shear”? Underscores where there should be spaces? Letters left off of the ends of words? Torquere Press, I bet I could do better than that. Freelance offers welcome. : p  In terms of the story itself, it’s… it’s missing something. It lacks the alchemical touch that turns good components into a good story, and would be best for YA libraries with a substantial GLBT collection.

Hand It To: Fans of hardcore gayngst (gay angst, for yall uninitiated out there), violently emo teens, Ellen Hopkins fans.

Sheri Reynolds–The Sweet In-Between

The What: Kendra, better known as Kenny, has a complicated life. Her father’s girlfriend is raising her, she lives with three “siblings” to whom she is not related, and her biological parents are dead (her mother) or in jail (her father). She has begun to dress and live as a boy, stymieing those close to her. Add in the catalyst of a murder next door, and Kenny begins to unravel in unexpected ways.

The Good: The descriptions throughout this book are just beautiful. Each character, and each place, have a vivid life that appeals to the senses of the reader. I have not spent much time in the American South, but after reading this book, I feel as though I have lived in Virginia. Additionally, Kenny is a unique protagonist for whom you will never stop rooting, even as adversity after adversity closes in around hir.

The Meh: I hesitate to type what may be considered a spoiler, but I’ll phrase it as vaguely as I can and move on: the narrative tone, for reasons believable within the story, seems to promote a weary acceptance of violent behavior. It was frustrating as a reader to not share a character’s journey toward demanding self-respect.

Hand It To: Older teens, fans of Fannie Flagg or Jill Conner Browne, Nancy Pearl’s character and setting readers. (Note: this title is not marketed as YA, so despite its teen protagonist, I would consider it a crossover title.)

What I’m Reading

To encourage discussion, and to keep track of this year’s reading pursuits, I’ll post periodically about what I’ve been reading lately. I’ll write a bit about what I thought of each work; please share your thoughts, too!

So far in January, I’ve read (and not reviewed)…

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