In the relatively short period of time since Ford Street staked its claim on the Australian publishing map with its first title, Sean McMullen’s, Before the Storm, the company has consistently produced entertaining, edgy, thought-provoking fiction and non-fiction that explores a kaleidoscope of themes: everything from mental illness to the deepest existentialist questions. f2m is no exception.
Eighteen year old Skye is many things to many people: sister, daughter, granddaughter, friend, band-mate. But to herself Skye is something altogether different; she is he, and his name is Finn.
From the first page Skye is in a quandary: should she tick the M or F box when applying for her driver’s licence? She does, after all, plan on transitioning as soon as she can. She has researched, joined internet forums and is saving for the necessary surgery. But as she is learning there are so many unexpected elements to consider, not least of which is how her transition from female to male will affect her friendships and position in her all girl punk band, The Chronic Cramps.
While navigating this personal minefield, Skye finds an ally in Gran, and uncovers the truth of Gran’s brother, Uncle Albert, who spent the later years of his life as Alberta. With Gran’s understanding and the help of newfound FTM (Female To Male) forum friends, Skye takes her first step on the path that will ultimately lead to the birth of Finn.
While I’m sure there is a lot of co-author, Ryan Kennedy (who transitioned from female to male at age twenty-seven) in Skye, I feel this story would have far more impact if it was indeed his story, rather than a fictionalised version. However, having said this I must add that f2m does exactly what it is meant to do, which is to allow readers into the life of a transgender person, to share his hopes, fears, and very personal life-changing journey. And it’s for this very reason that I applaud the publication of this book. Anything we can do to educate young people on the differences of others, whether they be differences of culture, religion or sexual orientation can only aid in a complete understanding of what it truly means to be human.
Teens, particularly girls, will pick up this title for its curiosity factor alone. Edwards’ literary skill and Kennedy’s heart-felt experiences marry well and the result is an honest story that is both entertaining and informative.
First-time transgender novelist Ryan Kennedy collaborates with well-known children’s author Hazel Edwards to produce a unique YA book that is bound to get a lot of publicity, both positive and negative.
Skye is an 18-year-old girl. She plays in an all-girl punk band. She has a loving family. She has friends. She also has a major problem: deep down inside, she knows that she’s actually a boy. f2m: the boy within is the story of how Skye becomes Finn — of how he deals with the transition; of how he tells his family and friends. It is a coming-of-age story about identity.
In many ways this book is a bit of an “Everything you wanted to know about gender transition but were afraid to ask” manual. It includes lots of details on the process, from counselling to hormone treatment to surgery. But it is so much more than this. The book is also a damn good story, with interesting characters, a fascinating look into the punk scene and nice touches of humour. My favourite character is Skye’s grandmother, and I enjoyed reading about her relationships with family, past and present. Her character is important to the story and skilfully woven into the narrative.
This is the sort of YA novel that is likely to make some people uncomfortable because it deals with a topic that is often considered taboo. But it doesn’t sensationalise. It humanises. Understanding is the key to tolerance — and this book opens the door to understanding. It is told from Skye/Finn’s point of view, and the reader gets to experience what is going through this teenager’s mind. This really is the sort of book that should be in every high school library. A highly recommended read!
- George Ivanoff
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