Author: Kristin Elizabeth Clark

ISBN: 9780374324728

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright date: October 22nd, 2013

Readers Annotation: Brendan doesn’t know who he is: he looks like a boy, but sometimes he wishes he was a girl.

Plot Summary:

Told from the perspectives of Brendan, his girlfriend Vanessa, and his new friend Angel, this book explores how Brendan’s gender confusion effects his relationships.  Brendan is a wrestler who is beginning to feel out of place.  He is slowly coming to realize that he doesn’t feel like a boy.  At the same time, he still loves his girlfriend Vanessa deeply and enjoys being intimate with her.  This only adds fuel to his confusion.  In this state of disarray Brendan meets Angel, a trans-girl.  Angel is confident in who she is despite the trials she has faced.  She can tell that Brendan is confused, but he won’t say exactly what he feels.  Brendan also doesn’t talk to Vanessa and she feels him slipping away.  Brendan slowly starts to spiral and pushes away everyone that’s important to him. Will Brendan be able to come to terms with who he is?  Will he hide himself away from the world? Or will he go down a more destructive path?

Critical Evaluation: 

Writing from two perspectives is difficult, but Clark decides to write from the viewpoint of three characters.  On top of that she decided to do it in prose.  She took a risk, and it pays off.  Each character’s voice is unique, and the poetic nature of each segment flows as if straight from the individuals mind.  Visually, the words flow down the page enticing the reader further.

The plot deals with Brendan’s questioning of his gender.  He has lived his life as a boy for so long that admitting that he feels feminine inside is scary to him.  Even thinking the word trans fills him with stress and anxiety.  These feelings that are going through Brendan’s mind would be reflective of many people in the LBGT+ community.  What Clark does is create a sense of hope.  This insight shows that the world is big and there are many kinds of people and that ultimately, you are not alone.  This is reiterated in a review from Library School Journal that says of the book, “It succeeds in conveying the message that “you are not alone” to transgender youth while helping everyone else get a handle on these often-tortured teens. The author succeeds in her mission to foster “greater understanding and acceptance of gender’s vast and lovely variation.” This book is written with trans individuals in mind, but it never hurts to remind anyone that they are supported and loved.

Author Information:

Kristin Elizabeth Clark lives and writes in San Francisco, Ca. She is a believer in and an advocate for human kindness. As such, she pretty much tries to stay off of social media. Kristin writes, teaches workshops, and speaks on panels about social justice, diversity, and writing for children and young adults. She’s also host and founder of The Ocean Beach Poet’s Society. Her young adult debut, Freakboy, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in 2013. It received three starred reviews, and was named to several best-of lists, including the Top 10 Rainbow List by the American Library Association, and the Bank Street Best Books for Children.The praise she is most humbled by however comes from the readers, both trans* and cis, who write to tell her that the book has changed, and in some cases even saved, their lives.

-From her author website which you can visit here

Genre: Realistic fiction

Curriculum Ties: Diversity, adversity, acceptance, coming of age, heroes journey.

Book Talk Ideas

  • Kristin Elizabeth Clark writes in prose.  What would be a short poem from one of the characters who aren’t telling the story?
  • What do you think Brendan’s next step towards happiness will be?
  • Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 9+

    Challenge issues: Depression, sex, LBGT themes.


    • You should immediately turn on your listening skills to make the patron feel respected. Make sure that you let them know that you appreciate their involvement in their teens life and that you care about what they are saying.
    • Make sure you are familiar with the book. You should have a basic understanding of the materials in your library, but make sure to have read whatever is being challenged to best understand the patron concerns.
    • Know and have access to the libraries selection policy. This describes how book choices were made in the first place.  The questionable material should be measured up to these points.
    • Have on file access to the books reviews, awards, and critical receptions. This should show how the book connects to the previously mentioned selection policy. Reviews should be from acclaimed sources such as Library School Journal, VOYA, Booklist, and Kirkus to name a few.
    • Also have on hand copies of the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights and be able to show how the questionable book fits into the beliefs of providing access in libraries.
    • The ALA freedom to read statement is also a good document to have on hand to show the American libraries view on creating a diverse collection, the meaning of censorship and assisting all individuals in finding what they wish to read.
    • As a last resort, have a reconsideration form ready if the patron wishes to fill it out. Make sure that you and the patron both understand the process. Many times, libraries will leave the questioned book on the shelf until the board or deciding body goes through the review process.  Understanding and explaining these key concepts help from creating any more issues.
    • Overall, remain calm and LISTEN. As a trained librarian your instinct may be to immediately jump into a defense of the book, but sometimes the best response is to be a proper sounding board for your patron.  Listening to there concerns is sometimes best solution to the problem at hand.

    Why did you pick this for your collection?

    This book is written in prose, which is not typically a style of writing teens are excited about.  However, it is written in an engaging manner and thus is great for anyone who is up for a challenge or who simply wants something different.  Another reason to add it is because it has diverse characters.  In the past month, a guy I went to college with and a guy who I went to high school with revealed that they were trans-women.  This is a story that is relevant to today’s time and could potentially help someone going through similar trials.

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