Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?
A book with a trans main character was all I needed to know to want to read this book. A book with a trans main character figuring out his identity while play Romeo in his school’s production of Romeo & Juliet was just more incentive for me to be absolutely to ready to read this book as soon as I can. Trigger warnings: discussion of suicide, transphobia, homophobia
In fact, I actually wanted to read this book so bad that I stooped to incredibly annoying levels to get it. (I am starting off with a funny story because I’m gonna get SUPER mushy right after haha.) I was denied on NetGalley, and then I was denied on Edelweiss. But, there is the ability to rerequest on Edelweiss. And I certainly took it. More than once. I am so sorry to the publisher, but I actually got approved! I haven’t had luck with rerequesting before, so I was shocked when I got the email.
Alright, now to the mushy stuff, because this book made me feel a lot of feelings. For what I think was the first time, it felt like I wasn’t faking my feelings about gender. This book gave me a sense of calm I didn’t even know I was looking for. Reading about how Dead wears hoodies, even when its hot, because he feels more comfortable with a layer between him and world, while sitting in my flannel, with my pillows I use for the same reason on my lap was an experience I was not expecting, but welcomed with open arms. There were so many moments like this too, moments where an eff bomb dropped in my head, or my jaw couldn’t help but drop. Because I was reading thoughts and experiences that so mirrored my own. So yeah, there were whole chunks of this book that I just wanted to sob through.
Really, the above paragraph is basically my entire feelings. Yes, there was a plot. Yes, there was writing. But what made this book so special for me was Dean’s journey to discovering who he was and his journey to becoming comfortable with that.
I guess I should talk about other aspects, instead of being super mushy the entire time. The entire theatre aspect was fantastic. I’m a sucker for anything to do with theatre, so a production of Romeo & Juliet was right up my alley!
Also, the writing was spectacular too. It made it easy to fly through the book and felt like crystal clear water.
Dean also has some amazing friends. I loved all the side characters, even if all their relationships are smooth sailing.
Speaking of not smooth sailing, another piece this book knocked out of the park was the portrayal of teen pain. The feeling of the world falling apart, the unsureness of the future, the unfairness of the world, the pain of lost relationships, it all felt so real. And it felt so incredibly teen. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but Dean’s angst, for lack of a better word, felt exactly like what I was feeling the midst of my teenage misery. It felt very, very authentically teen, and it was just really cool to read.
It’s so weird to try and review this book because everything I loved about it was so personal. It was a book I personally needed. It’s hard to talk about the book in any kind of objective way, because my love for isn’t objective. I loved it because of my personal experiences and feelings, which won’t be the same for other people. All my reviews are my own personal thoughts and opinions, but I dunno, this feels deeper. It is a good book! I do think people should read it! It’s just that my love for it is all tied into such deep, raw, and personal feelings. Though, it is a very. very good book!