Reviews for I Am J
Booklist Reviews 2010 December #1
*Starred Review* Who is J? Though born a girl, he has known since early childhood that he is really a boy. But how to explain that to his parents, who simply consider him to be a lesbian, or to his best friend, Melissa, whom he loves but who rejects him angrily when he kisses her since she, too, regards him as a girl? Small wonder he is self-hating and angry and determined to mask the female part of his identity. But finally, sick of wearing bandages and multiple layers of baggy clothing to hide his body, he decides to take testosterone so he'll look and sound more male. But he is only 17 and needs parental consent to do this. What to do? The solutions--like his life--are complicated and difficult. But desperate determination and the faithfulness of friends may help him to find himself and the acceptance of others. Beam has written easily the best book to date about the complicated condition of being a transsexual teen, not only sharing important information that is artfully woven into the plot but also creating, in J, a multilayered, absolutely believable character whose pain readers will share. Perhaps most importantly, the author brings clarity and charity to a state of being that has too long been misunderstood, ignored, and deplored. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Fall
"When J was a really little kid, he had been surprised whenever anyone thought he was a girl." Now J's mother assumes he's a lesbian, his father doesn't know how to talk to him, and he's in love with his best friend, Melissa. J's personal frustrations and desires are strongly conveyed in this affecting story of self-discovery. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #2
"When J was a really little kid, he had been surprised whenever anyone thought he was a girl; the world seemed confused and backward to him." Now, at seventeen, the painful collision between J's inner view of himself as a guy and the perception of everyone else has become unbearable. J feels the "other world...slamming him" again and again: when a neighbor calls him by his given name, Jeni; while getting dressed, trying not to see the offending breasts as he binds and covers them in layers of oversized clothing. J's mother assumes he's a lesbian; his father doesn't know how to talk to him. In love with his best friend Melissa for years, J suffers through all her crushes. When he finally kisses her, Melissa is completely freaked out and J loses his sole comfort, propelling him to take bold steps toward claiming his identity. The author draws on research from her nonfiction book Transparent, and indeed the novel contains a great deal of information and advice from the supportive friends and teachers J eventually meets. Yet J's personal frustrations and desires are strongly conveyed, pulling readers into the internal narrative, which includes several exciting firsts: romance, guy friends, a show of his photography. One of only a few YA titles available on the subject, the book is a gift to transgender teens and an affecting story of self-discovery for all readers. lauren adams Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2011 February #1
Finally, a book about a transgender teen that gives its central character a life in which gender and transition matter but do not define his existence! J lives with his Puerto Rican mother and Jewish father in Manhattan's working-class Washington Heights neighborhood but plans to go to college to study photography. He tries not to think about gender and covers his body in thick layers of clothing, but he still tenses up when his mother calls him "m'ija" or classmates call him "dyke." After a heated argument with his best friend, Melissa, and a nearly physical fight at school, J starts cutting class. A Google search leads him to the idea of taking testosterone, and J leaves home, certain that his parents will not accept his choices. In his new haunts, including a seedy hotel, a downtown Starbucks, a trans support group and a high school for LGBT students, J encounters a vibrant and diverse cast of characters. Responses to J's transition vary from affirming (his trans poet classmate Chanelle's support) to heartbreaking (his parents' resistance) to maddening (Melissa's attempt to make art with J as her "muse"). Readers will likely come away agreeing with J: "Being trans wasn't special, and yet it was. It was just good and bad and interesting and fucked-up and very human, like anything else." (Fiction. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 January #5
J was born Jenifer but has never felt female. Now on the verge of 18, he wants to be "more than just a hovering brain without a body," and starts to transition to male. He binds his breasts; attends a school for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth; and starts therapy so he can be approved for testosterone injections. Change isn't easy: afraid of his father's rejection, J runs away temporarily, and is anxious that the girlfriend who "saw him as a man" will find out that he is "trans." Readers will learn a lot about transgender teens as J does online research, attends a support group, and gets advice from friends who have transitioned; adult author Beam (Transparent) also includes a four-page list of resources. It is J's authentic voice that keeps this challenging story from simply being a problem novel. J is sure of his masculinity, yet vulnerable and confused, and his thoughts often come out in a tangled rush. Readers should be absorbed by J's struggle to prove "My gender's not a lie. I am not a lie." Ages 15-up. (Mar.) [Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2011 February
Gr 9 Up--When J reached adolescence, he quit the swim team and began covering his body with extra clothes to hide the fact that he had been born a girl. At 17, J dreams of being accepted as a boy, binding his breasts and despising his monthly periods. His close friend, Melissa, a cutter, tries her best to understand and support him. His parents are confused, angry, and sad. He runs away from home and enrolls in a special school for gay and transgender teens, where he makes a helpful friend, a transgender girl. He also embarks on a shaky romance with Blue, a straight female artist who believes J is a boy and to whom he must eventually confess the truth. When he learns about testosterone and how it can help with his transformation, he is overjoyed, despite the obstacles he faces in getting the drug legally. Finally, J turns 18 and is able to begin getting his shots. He applies to and is accepted at college to study photography as a transgender young man, and holds out hope that one day his parents will accept him as well. Beam is the author of the informative adult book, Transparent: Love, Family and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers (Houghton, 2007). This novel is just as impressive. J is an especially vivid character, and the supporting characters are carefully drawn. Told in third person, the story is believable and effective due to insightful situations, realistic language, and convincing dialogue. Readers who relished Julie Anne Peters's Luna (Little, Brown, 2004) will snap it up.--Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, Fort Collins, CO [Page 101]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
VOYA Reviews 2011 April
Seventeen-year-old J is a boy born into a girl's body. He dresses as a boy, binds his breasts, and attempts to make his mannerisms more masculine. Unable to tell his unsuspecting parents or his best friend, Melissa, J feels no alternative but to run away. Wandering around lower Manhattan, he meets Blue, who treats him as a boy, causing him to believe she is girlfriend potential. Checking into a cheap hotel, J is advised to leave by a wizened guest, who points him to a clinic where testosterone shots are given to transgender boys. J feels this is the answer to his problems but is disconcerted to learn that he must attend counseling and obtain parental approval for the shots, a process that takes several months. Uncertain, he attends counseling and finds people with whom he can relate. He transfers to a GLBT high school to finish his senior year. In I Am J, Beam writes about an underserved population and covers the emotional hodgepodge that transgenders go through. The writing, however, bogs down the story. A more tightly written novel might have more impact. The confusion of the central characters--J, Melissa, J's parents--is offset nicely by the quiet acceptance of some ancillary characters. Although J is emotionally a man, he does not know how boys act or think. Luna by Julie Anne Peters (Little, Brown, 2005/VOYA June 2004) tells this story from the transgender girl's perspective and is better written. Beam presents the facts and includes a list of GLBT resources. Purchase I Am J to complement your collection in this area.--Ed GoldbergThis reviewer enjoyed Beam's writing style. The story of J, a transgender teen living in Los Angeles, is told in the first-person narrative voice. It may at first be difficult to relate to the tale of a boy trapped in a girl's body, but the book is very well written and readers will be completely immersed in the characters. It is a heartfelt story of the difficulties teenagers face, particularly coupled with the added issue of being a trans teen. I recommend this book for anyone who keeps an open mind to new fiction and is not afraid to read about a subject that can initially cause discomfort but in the end will be satisfying. 3Q,3P.--Nicole Drago, Teen Reviewer 3Q 2P S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.