Fifteen-year-old Mick Mullins has a great life: his parents are sweet, his sister is tolerable, and his friendships are solid. But as summer descends on Queens, he prepares to turn his carefree existence upside down by disclosing a secret he has kept long enough. It’s time to work up the courage to reveal that he is not a boy, but a girl—and that her name is Michelle. Having always been the perfect, good boy, Michelle is terrified that the complicated truth will disappoint, hurt, or push away the people closest to her. She can’t continue hiding for much longer, though, because her body is turning into that of a man’s, and she is desperate to stop the development—desperate enough to consider self-medicating with hormones.
Most of all, Michelle fears that Grandpa, who is in a nursing home after a near fatal stroke, won’t survive the shock if he finds out that his favorite grandchild, and the only boy, is a girl. If she kills her beloved Grandpa by leaving Mick behind, she isn’t sure embracing her real identity will be worth the loss.
Rossing writes so clearly and emphatically you really feel for the journey that Michelle is on as she tries to break free from the body of Mick that everyone else sees. The way she talks about how Michelle feels, the things she must do to herself physically, the things she hides from others, her fears, all of it comes off the pages in waves of pain, sadness and confusion. If you aren’t transgendered it really makes you think about the extreme simplistic things we take for granted, that we don’t even think about as we go through our days.
Michelle is given lots of people in her life who know her as Mick, the boy she was born as and lived, and she is trying to hide the truth of her identity from them in order to protect their feelings and her ties to them. Family, friends and even a ‘potential’ love interest are all used to as various pieces to the bigger puzzle of how do you live as your authentic self in a world that might not be ready for it?
Though what she’s going through is very emotional and psychologically confusing, Michelle’s character also has a huge heart in that she considers the welfare of others such as her ailing Grandfather in trying to decide how to live as she was meant to be. To some it may seem selfish that she’s trying to put their happiness ahead of hers but Rossing shows it was about more than that, it was about her love and compassion for others.
As Michelle begins to emerge we are given a very emotional yet genuine impression of what it feels like for her to struggle to be honest to those whose opinions mean the most. The fear and pain that could come if she doesn’t receive the support she needs or the relief and happiness if they accept her. Rossing writes with respect towards the Trans community while managing to provide a heartwarming story without exploiting the very people she’s trying to give a voice to.
I hope anyone who reads this and hasn’t had firsthand experience with someone in the Trans community will gain a better understanding of what they go through so maybe they’ll act with more compassion and respect when given the opportunity.
Thank you to Netgalley and Harmony Ink Press for allowing me to review this!
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