Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book Review: I Am J


"Hola, Jeni."

J spun. His stomach clenched hard, as though he'd been hit. It was just the neighbor lady, Mercedes. J couldn't muster a hello back, not now; he didn't care that she'd tell his mom he'd been rude. She should know better. Nobody calls me Jeni anymore.

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.

An inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path - readers will recognize a part of themselves in J's struggle to love his true self.

--From Goodreads

Cover Inspection:
I think that the sweatshirt on the front fits J just perfectly. I mean, both sexes wear sweatshirts. It's so, simple.

First Thoughts:
J has it tough. I don't even think that's the right word.

***

My Review:
What first struck me about I Am J is that it isn't just about a transgendered teen. It isn't even just about a biracial teen. No, for our protagonist J it's about both. Cris Beam shows us the very realistic life of a teen who is lost in a sea of misunderstandings, all because he happened to be born a girl and Puerto Rican in New York. For J it becomes all about understanding where he fits in over all else. To be honest, even a cisgendered person like myself can feel at least a part of J's struggle. I can only imagine how it feels to know in the deepest part of your soul that your outward appearance does not match who you really are.

I realize that the last paragraph was extremely jumbled, but truth be told it is hard for me to express in words exactly how this book struck me. I finished it almost a full two weeks ago, and yet I've had the hardest time figuring out how to share with all of you what I really thought. I Am J is one of those books that really reached in and grabbed me. I learned so much about transgendered teens and the issues that they face, but for J it was so much more than that. J not only was trying to come to terms with being a boy inside and a girl outside, but also trying to understand why his parents couldn't accept it.

Cris Beam writes such a realistic character in J that I actually became a part of his struggle. Even the smaller and more supporting characters jumped off the page and into my heart. This book is by no means an easy read, although there are definitely happier parts in it. I fully believe that there need to be more books about transgendered and bi-racial teens out there. Books like this help people who are hurting, like J, find someone else who is going through what they went through. Even if it is fiction, that can help. Also even though J isn't a real person per say, he does find some great resources that I'm sure readers can use.

Everything in this book is just purely fantastic, raw and real. I applaud Cris Beam for writing such an important and touching book, I only wish I could do better to sing its praises. It seems every time I'm faced with a truly important and deeply life altering book, I don't know what to say at the end! Nonetheless I highly recommend that you give I Am J a read! It is well worth your time, and you'll probably learn so much that you'll feel all the better for it at the end.

Release Date: March 1, 2011


Book Details
Title: I Am J
Author: Cris Beam
Publisher: Little Brown, Books for Young Readers
Pages: Hardcover; 352
Source: Received for promotional tour.
FTC Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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