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on October 19, 2011
Thea Atkinson flawlessly captures the many nuisances of the human condition. The pain, the love, the uncertainly- all blended seamlessly into the story of J. It is a wonderful story that will hold your attention from cover to cover.
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on October 28, 2011
Once I've finished a Thea Atkinson book I can't help but feel sorry for the next title on my list - it will always pale in comparison.

Anomaly is a great example of character driven fiction. I enjoyed Ms. Atkinson's portrayal of J., Molly, Stephanie, and Sherona. They were vivid and wonderfully written.

This is not a neat and tidy storyline. We are left in the dark regarding J's past, how he and Molly came to be friends, why they're still friends, what will happen next with so many things - it's all just left wide open. I didn't care. I felt this was a fantastic read.

The reader finds out J is bi-gendered. We also know that there are many drug abuse demons lurking. I'm not sure which element was stronger in this story... they went hand in hand. Thea Atkinson hits on a very key issue regarding transgender individuals. Why not just pick one, just go with it and live your life? What does it matter? Anomaly shows us it is the only thing that matters.

One complaint - this should be available in paperback. I believe it would come in around 220 pages.

Thea Atkinson is one of my favorite authors of all time. That is a lofty thing to say considering I've only finished two of her books. But I mean it. She's that good.
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on March 27, 2011
I'm going to cheat and start with a quote snatched out of the author's own commentary because it describes the heart of this book so well.
*************
When I first began writing this book and realized that my main character was a trans person, I got really nervous. What did I know about transgender? I even remember saying to my daughter, "Why would my muse give me a transgender character to work with?"

The deeper I got into the writing, the more I realized that it was about the human condition. It was about bias and prejudice and the need for society to put labels on things that we don't understand. It just so happened that my character was transgender. The same as if my character just happened to be a man and as an author I'm a woman.
*******************
Atkinson succeeded in communicating all of those things. The cliché about walking in someone else's shoes applies as well. Her portrayal of J is both sympathetic and, for those who have ever had someone think less of them because of being different, potentially eye opening. "Anomaly" is not a book I would have been likely to read on my own, despite it coming close to issues that I care about. Yet, I can't help but think I'm a better person for having done so.

"Anomaly" is also an excellent example of why the rise of Indie publishing we're experiencing is a good thing. I find it hard to picture this book attracting a contract with a traditional publisher. Not because the writing or the story isn't good enough, they are. But because of marketing reasons. How would we position it? Who's the audience? Can we sell enough? This book deserves an audience and you owe it to yourself to read it.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog.**
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on November 23, 2010
Ok, this is my first book by this author and I really enjoyed it. It was an easy read. I was absorb in the mind boggling issues "J" ( the main character) was dealing with. At times I felt his confusion, his anger, his need to belong. I found myself rooting for him. Wish the story could continue, I did not want it to end. This book get 5 stars from me because, I could not get "J" out of mind after I had finish reading the book. When a book end with me wanting more it gets 5 stars. Hope the author continues the story line.
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on July 1, 2011
The story sucked me right in and throughout it all I was cheering for J. When he teetered towards a relapse into drug use, I was on the edge of my seat pleading, DON'T DO IT! And when he didn't, I cheered.

J was a raw person, there really wasn't anything sugar coated about him. He was a man physically but didn't always feel like one and often switched from dressing and acting like a man to dressing and acting like a woman when the moods hit. And all that confusion about what gender he really was sent him down dark paths that are slowly revealed. Also, I love his obsession with bras and underwear and the care he gives each piece. It wasn't painted in a perverted light but a light of someone who enjoyed to occasionally wear those items or a female lover wear them just so they could be taken off.

As for the other characters. Molly... I loved and hated her. I wanted her on the same path as J and be free of drugs and she was so stubborn at times, deflecting J's attempts to care. Their friendship and past were revealed perfectly. I will admit in the beginning I was confused. Molly is a lesbian but I couldn't figure out if she and J actually had sex at one point while he was in a feminine mood.

Stephanie and Sherona I would have liked to see more but their parts in the story were actually quite perfect. I guess what I would have loved was the story to continue and see what happens next. But all good stories must come to an end and that's another good sign for me. When I don't want the story to end (BTW J was in my dreams all last night. Don't remember what went on but I know he was there.)

But as I noted when talking about Molly not all was perfect. The biggest problem I had was confusion. At first it was mostly about J while he and Molly were in the bar. I kept wondering what gender was he dressed as. Some of the early confusion also stemmed from the fact that J was the way he was and until I got used to how he acted and thought, I was confused. I think if I read it again, there would be less confusion in the beginning. Other bits of confusion came at sentences that just felt too full of words, I had to reread slowly and pick it apart to understand and even then I didn't always.
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on January 1, 2011
J. makes for an interesting main character, as s/he constantly questions her/his own identity, which ultimately colors her interactions with others throughout the book. While J. veers between trying to extend a helping hand to assist others struggling with the same issues she has faced, sexuality, drug-abuse, and shows compassion while doing so, her greatest struggle seems to be within. There are some harrowing dark moments, but ultimately, J. seems to find peace and self-acceptance.
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on June 26, 2011
Rating: 4.7 out of 5

When I received Anomaly by Thea Atkinson as a review copy, I set it aside, pretty much uninterested. I accepted it because the sample was well written, but I was deep into a new fascination with fantasy and other genre fiction at that time, and thought to myself, I don't really like literary fiction, so this one can wait a while...let me enjoy myself first.

Well, recently I glanced at my to-be-read pile, saw that book still sitting there, and decided it had waited long enough. And when I started reading, all I could think was that I should've gotten around to it sooner. It surprised me in so many ways.

Anomaly is the story of J, a ne'er-do-well transgender/recovering drug addict living in rural Nova Scotia. This book doesn't have so much of a plot in the traditional sense; it's more an exploration of what it means to be J, taking place during a few tough, stressful, and let's face it, downright depressing days out of his/her life. No, existence is not easy for our J, who has a big mouth and a bit of a masochistic streak. J's struggles with his/her sexual identity create a character who's constantly on the edge of darkness, questioning what it means to be man, to be woman, to be both, or to be nothing at all.

While recovering from a particularly brutal beating, J begins to worry about his/her neighbor, whose colicky baby has suddenly stopped crying. In a feat of humanity uncommon for J (and most addicts, really), he/she strikes up a protective relationship with said neighbor,, a young woman and fellow addict who (hard as it is to believe) is actually more pathetic than J.

The bulk of the story takes place in J's apartment and a local bar, and we get to meet his/her friend Molly, a boisterous lesbian who, herself, has far-too-long-ignored substance-abuse issues. There is also a kind nurse who is a welcomed voice of reason to the rest of the characters' insanity, who forms a quite beautiful bond with J and ends up being a lynchpin for suggested further growth, development, healing, and self-discovery.

It might seem like I'm making fun of this book and what lies inside, but I'm truly not. When I call the characters pathetic, it's because that's the way Atkinson created them - and purposefully so. Having known quite a few addicts throughout my life, I found their portrayal both accurate and heartbreaking, though not without a sliver of hope. But what I appreciated most of all were the reasons for this addiction, for J in particular. I have no idea what it's like to not know my gender, to one day know I'm a man and the next know, just as strongly, that I'm a woman. But I can imagine how much pressure that must place on an individual, socially as well as emotionally. Like it or not, we have some pretty strict public codes of conduct in this world when it comes to gender roles, and for those who choose (or have no choice in the matter) to buck them end up paying a high mental and physical cost.

This novel is told in first-person, from J's viewpoint, and we the reader get to hear his/her thoughts on so many subjects - from the nature of religious icons to the contradictory messages of the LGBT community to how pitiable the life of an addict really is. He/she's a very reliable source of information, for no matter how screwed up J might be, he/she still has his/her head on straight...mostly. So when J latches onto a single phrase, one used to describe the reasons her neighbor's baby was taken away, those words gain that much more importance and a new, particularly foreboding meaning.

Failure to thrive.

That phrase is repeated over and over again, and really, that's what Anomaly is all about. It's the story of how incomplete we are as people - all of us - and how our standard definitions, though they might help keep things tucked neatly in little boxes, often times hurt us more than anything. It's about the malfunction of the concept of love and how often we don't know what that word means. It's about caring for others more than ourselves, and realizing that when doing so we completely disregard the fact we must care for ourselves, lest every action we make means nothing.

But most of all, it's the story of life, of the struggle to survive in a world that really has no one's best interest in mind, a world that, in effect, makes it difficult for anyone to thrive. In that way Anomaly is a difficult and occasionally stomach-churning read. But it's a learning experience, and very much worth the investment of time.

I'm glad I invested mine.

Plot - 9
Characters - 10
Voice - 10
Execution - 9
Personal Enjoyment - 9

Overall - 47/50 (4.7/5)
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on May 26, 2011
For me, this was a very hard read, partly because it was such a familiar part of my own past. I as reminded of the beatings I took just for wearing bright colors, or shorts, or even just caring about what I should be wearing.

I remember the days when I would go out drinking and create a crisis situation where I would be kicked and beaten, and even hoping I'd take a shot to the nuts and eliminate the problem. And I remember the people I would hang out with as an alcoholic and drug addict.

I now have over 31 years clean & sober, but I still struggle with my gender identity, and my femme side screams to come out and play. Fortunately, I have a loving wife, and a happy ending.

However, each attempt to "Kill Debbie" - and go fully male, has often resulted in huge weight gains of up to 150 lbs, medical problems, and even some very dangerous situations. Bringing Debbie back results in a healthier lifestyle, losing all or most of the weight gained (lost 75 lbs on Weight watchers since July 2010). There is also more integrity, authenticity, commitment, and courage in every area of my life.

This story is a great book for families and friends of transgendered people, regardless of whether they are just bedroom transvestites, or people who feel like they are girls trapped in a boys body, or are actually beginning the process of the transition.

This book also shows the lack of freedom men have in their self-expression, their ability to dress, act, and behave in ways that our society considers too "Feminine". Women have been winning back their freedom and power for almost 50 years, but men have closed ranks and become even more regimented in their behaviors.

Anomaly is well researched, and obviously reflects the experience of real transgendered people who don't have the resources to pay for electrolysis, surgery, and hormones for the 2-3 years required to complete a gender change.
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on December 29, 2010
J isn't your typical guy, uh, girl, uh... J is ever-changing; with J, you don't always quite know who- or what- you're going to get. With an identity that changes weekly, a bit of a self-destructive streak that promises trouble time and time again, a good friend who's trying hard to stay above water herself, and a neighbor who may need more help than J can give, life is never boring. Sometimes identity is not clearly defined by labels. And sometimes, just sometimes, it takes an objective bystander and a life-changing revelation to give the push needed to redefine an identity... perhaps by not defining it at all.

In this work of literary fiction, Thea Atkinson takes on the frequently misunderstood and often confusing world of transgenderism. J was born with genitalia that just doesn't always seem to match who he feels he is inside. "Anomaly" explores J's struggle to define himself to others, and, more importantly, to define himself to himself. Struggling to make others understand him, yet not even completely understanding himself, J is doomed to forever be an outsider in his own body. The author does a good job in helping to open up the door to explore what it may feel like to be given a body that just doesn't seem to fit who you are.

J's story may not be completely relatable to many people, but his/her struggle with identity was riveting not matter what your experience. Although the tumultuous struggle J had with his own relationship to himself was clearly defined, at times I felt it still lacked a bit of depth. It was well-described, and I was drawn in, but I didn't quite get all the way to actually feeling what he was experiencing. I felt like I was exploring an interesting case study...one that certainly did pluck at my heart strings, but I was still the outsider to his experience. The characters were generally richly developed and interesting. We are made to understand the closeness of J's relationship with Molly, but I wanted just that touch more. We know how they met, but how did their relationship become a little less of a friendship and a little more symbiotic? How did they become more than "just friends?" I think the ending could be easily expanded a bit as well. J experiences several intense events in a short time span, and I wanted to see a little more about how those events collided in J's brain, and his mental processing as a result. I thought the story was really well-done, overall, but I think a little more fleshing out in those areas would have made it exceptional.

This is another book that could use that final editing pass to wipe out those last few errors (your and you're were interchanged several times, for example), but that was definitely secondary to the compelling prose that was used to tell J's tale. Very readable and thought-provoking, this book delves into an area not often approached in literature, and does it very nicely. As J comes to terms with himself, the reader may also find that identity cannot always be neatly labeled and packaged. Sometimes, a man isn't just a man. A recommended read.

@ MotherLode blog
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on March 31, 2011
This was the first book I bought for my new Kindle and I read the sample first and found I simply couldn't get J out of my head. So back I went and bought the entire book and read it in an afternoon.(I read fast, by the way).
In some ways this book explores in a very interesting way the sheer fluidity and variation of gender. I had a friend years ago who was born Intersex and while she looked and presented as female, genetically she was considered male.
Anomaly has introduced a character with marvellous complexity and scope and I am looking forward to another adventure with J some time in the future.
The prose is smooth and the plot well paced. The characters were all very real, and easy to identify with.
My only complaint is that as a Brit, some of the slang was unfamiliar but that's not a real complaint at all.
If you want a read that intrigues and leaves you wondering "What next?" when it's finished, I heartily recommend this book.
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