Sam is about to turn 17. He lives with his father, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother in a small town in central New York. The people in his bloodline are cursed such that if they fall in love before the age of 17, the loved one is doomed to meet an untimely end. Thus, there is no grandfather, great-grandfather, or great-great-grandfather in the household, and Sam’s own mother disappeared right after he was born. Besides this particular curse, the household in which he lives routinely practices magic of one sort or another, reading Tarot cards, sleeping with certain flowers under their pillows, etc. It’s a bit of a strange home but not an ugly one, and Sam feels loved and loves his relatives back in return. Their great hope is that he can make it to 17 without falling in love and thus somehow break the family curse.
Sam is gay, which his family knows about and supports, but he also frequents the local drag club (which he thinks they do NOT know about) and has good friends among some of the performers. He also works during vacation at his father’s fast-food stand in town, a job he seems to enjoy well enough. Sam seems to get along easily with people.
A new boy comes to town, Sam falls in love, and the curse threatens to remain in effect. However, the “new boy” is actually a girl (Jennifer), who says she is a boy (Tom), and who is trying to transition into living as such. So goes the very messy gender-fluidity issue with which our current society seems to be wrestling. The “new boy” romances a local girl, Sam gets jealous and outs the kid to the girl (who doesn’t seem to be much surprised), and it’s all a big mess. In the end Jennifer/Tom and Sam do reclaim their friendship, though it never was or ever will be a romance, because transgender Jennifer is attracted to girls, not guys. You got that? Sam himself finds it confusing, though Tom does not.
In the meantime, Sam plays a phone game in which he dials numbers at random and asks whoever answers to tell him a story. He starts up a helpful phone relationship with an interesting girl who eventually turns out to have been dead for decades, but, well, spirit can transcend space and time, don’t you know? How Sam learns her identity and story is quite a charming part of the novel though full of pathos.
The characters in this book are all well-drawn and generally sympathetic. Most of them are doing the best they can to construct meaningful lives despite some less-than-ideal hands they are dealt. Readers will be interested in their stories and hopeful for their futures.
This book will not clear up any confusion kids might have about gender, but it will give them detailed descriptions of masturbation and how to fake sex using a dildo. There is a lot of coarse language and religious profanity. I imagine there is an audience for this book, but conservative communities will not want public dollars spent on it.
Categories: Body Acceptance, Controversial YA Topics, Death and Grieving, Depression, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, Grief, LGBTQIA, Mental Health, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Peer Relationships, Supernatural/Occult