Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fresh New Voice of YA- I Am J by Cris Beam

I Am J by Cris Beam
""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."- summary from Amazon

Within the first few pages of Beam's fictional debut, I was seriously hooked. There isn't a huge hook, like a mystery or some paranormal thing or space travel. What's there is an emotional connection to J which I immediately latched onto. I really felt for J's predicament and the life that was handed to him. It's hard to create a character that you really care about right from the start, but Beam did it. It's even harder to do it in third person because it can easily fall into emotional disconnect territory. As I was reading, I likened the successful third person usage to Willow by Julia Hoban (another fabulous book; it's about cutting, which this book features a bit of).

I really enjoyed reading J's journey on his road to becoming the man he knows he is on the inside even if the outward appearance suggests otherwise. His interactions with others really reveal his own confusion over what he is and how he can get there as well as the general public's ignorance about what it means to be trans. It's very realistic and Beam handles this issue with a wonderful delicacy.

J's story is educational without being overbearing about it. Once the book is finished, the reader will know much more about the life of a trans person, probably without realizing it.

Honestly, this is such a wonderful book and I'm proud to feature it on my blog and recommend it. Please check this book out!

PS I will say though that J sometimes looks like I and for a second, I'd read it as that and think it was a first-person account. This happened way too many times, lol.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.


  1. Thanks for the spotlight - I saw this book a few days ago at the library and the cover caught my attention (the librarians had it on one of the 'display' shelves), but I already had an armful of books, so I didn't stop to read the back or anything. But now I'm adding it to my TBR-list.

  2. Oh, I'm so glad to hear that J was a great character! This book sounds amazing--and it's great that Cris Beam handled the subject matter wonderfully. :)

  3. I hadn't heard about this one, but it sounds really interesting. I can see how J/I would be confusing.

  4. This one sounds like a very unique book. I'm definitely going to try to check it out!