Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Boy2Girl, by Terence Blacker

When the nice quiet Burton family in London gains custody of Sam, the son of Mrs. Burton's late sister, it's pretty obvious he doesn't fit in. Angry and wound up and terribly "Yank"-ish, he fights and curses at anyone who gets close to him. But then he accepts a dare to show up at school for the first week dressed as a girl -- a disguise that is surprisingly effective. Yet "Mrs. Doubtfire" this most certainly isn't. Sam makes a strange girl, not even trying to act feminine. That's when the fun really starts.

It's clever and funny and surprisingly revealing for a popular novel. Blacker is trying to get at some of the stuff that defines gender identity, without getting too preachy about it, and he largely succeeds. Characters can be a bit two dimensional, but this is one of those odd books where a constantly changing narrator (just about everyone -- except, notably, Sam himself -- gets a chance to tell the story) actually works pretty well. A clever original.

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