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Choir Boy Hardcover – April 5, 2005

64 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up–Berry, 12, lives a lonely and disconnected life at home and finds his only moments of fulfillment and transcendence as a standout soloist in the choir. When he notices that puberty is beginning to crack the pristine pipes of other boys his age, he begins to fear his own transition to manhood. He decides that, in the tradition of the Castrati, he needs to terminate his impending flow of pitch-bending testosterone before it's too late. After an impulsive hack with a kitchen knife leaves his gonads smarting but intact, Berry is able to obtain a pharmaceutical solution: a mixture of testosterone inhibitors and female hormones meant for aspiring transsexuals. He has not yet begun to unravel the complex subtleties of his sexuality, nor does he fully fathom the side effects the regimen will produce. He soon finds himself with a pair of strapping breasts and is thus forced into some difficult life-altering decisions. The story features a cast of over-the-top characters and is delivered in a glib, hipsteresque narrative style reminiscent of Tom Robbins. While some readers may relish the underground tone, others will find it effete and annoying. The sometimes cartoonish treatment, while it does provide some mild comic enjoyment, ultimately subverts the emotional gravity of what are very weighty personal issues. That shortcoming, combined with the adult language and themes, makes this title unsuitable for most collections.–Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI
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"A coming-of-age tale with universal resonance that also manages to expand our understanding of the word "universal." -- NY Press

"A groundbreaking and unflinching tale of teenage transsexualism." -- Kirkus Reviews

"A journey almost anyone can relate to." -- The San Francisco Chronicle

"Choir Boy may well be the first trans novel with Christian-youth crossover potential." -- Bitch Magazine

"Excruciatingly funny and captivating ….[Charlie Anders] has a knack for sharp, dizzy, laugh-out-loud dialogue." -- Frontiers Newsmagazine

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press; First Edition edition (April 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932360816
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932360813
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,781,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By E. Henry on April 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Choir Boy compares well with classic books about teenagers that aren't necessarily for teenagers, like Bridge Over Terabithia or Carson McCullers' Member of the Wedding, and then goes way beyond. It's a fast-moving and complicated story, lyrical and musically structured, scary, hilarious, and hopeful.

Everyone will read it to be "about" gender and queerness, and it is, but I hope people will also see another story, about the possibility of living in uncertainty. Berry and the other characters have outside influences pushing them into particular paths of identity or behavior, but none of them ultimately are locked in to those paths. Commitment to art, above all, is what puts Berry in conflict with society. I listened to cds of choir boys singing anthems while reading the book, and let the philosophical and religious questions percolate.

In short, there is no genre this book fits. It might be read by transgender teenagers as a sort of equivalent to the "difficult issue" young adult book, something that goes beyond Avi, or Betty Miles: books where a kid stands up for some issue like sex education or not saying the Pledge of Allegiance, without understanding that it's going to create a hell of a firestorm beyond their control. But the book's depths put it way beyond that Scholastic Paperback "emperor has no clothes" simplification of what it's like to be a kid, and far beyond the didactic messages of the usual coming-out memoir. Choir Boy is deeply respectful of kids. Reading it made me look back at my own teenage years and the choices I made, and re-evaluate the meaning of some of my own actions.

It's a fun book and a great story!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By luaukins on June 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. I read it almost a month ago and I find myself still thinking about Berry's world. Sad, funny, achingly touching like adolescence itself, it's really not easy to describe. Berry is a twelve year old who is on the verge of everything: a new voice, body, thoughts, feelings, friends, social standing, family; every inch of Berry is starting to change. Author Charlie Anders has done a wonderful job of bringing the reader back to that time, when everything and nothing about life was simple. I look forward to reading it again!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mahogany Book Club on March 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
This was a wonderful story. Cleage always packs a big punch with her novels. Covering some serious topics and sprinkle love in the mix. Cleage novels are always an outstanding book club selection.

Voted Best Fiction/Best Book Club Discussion/ Best Book Of The Year.

Mahogany Media Review

Albany, N.Y.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By LATH on January 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Pearl Cleage, in her fourth novel, BABYLON SISTERS, has done an outstanding job of dealing with real women issues through using a combination of the thriller and romance genre. This book is easy reading that takes you on a roller-coaster ride.

The story is told by Catherine Sanderson ("Cat") who, as a single mom, has been raising her daughter Phoebe for 17 years. She has provided Phoebe with a loving home, an excellent education and a warm, but firm, loving "modern" mother. Through these years, there have been some ups and downs, but that normally happens in any woman's life, whether she is black or white. However, through all the good things that Cat has provided her daughter, Phoebe still has one question that Cat can't answer truthfully, "Who is her father?" Along with some good things and meeting some trouble people, Ms. Cleage provides the reader with real life situations using excellent storytelling skill.

To show you that the book is not only wonderful but has you draw back on your African-American classical reading, there is a reference to a character in a book I read long ago, however; I could not remember the character nor could I answer the question. This made me go back and pick up that book again and re-read it. (Read the book to find out what is the name of this classic African-American book.). Ms. Cleage also refers to some recent issues that will make you think. Her writing brings us bits of our history and shows us that we "as women" have many options; one of those options is not to give up on our self.

Overall, if you want a good read that is written skillfully, READ THIS BOOK. It will take you on a wonderful literary ride.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephen E. Stratton on December 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Within the last year two titles have appeared that provide two very different approaches to discussion of the issue of transgender teenagers. Luna by Julie Anne Peters appeared in 2004 and was an Honor Book for the American Library Association GLBT Round Table's Stonewall Award in literature this past year. Luna is the brother of story's narrator, Regan. Regan's days and nights have revolved around Luna and now Regan is facing up to the fact that she has no life of her own and is becoming resentful.

Choir Boy takes completely different tact. Berry is thirteen years old and loves being in the choir at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. He loves the music and the atmosphere so much that he realizes he wants to remain a choirboy into adulthood. He does not want to change, to lose his magnificent voice after training for 8 years. So Berry does what any confused, scared, male might do in a comic setting. He gets himself to a clinic and quickly begins taking hormones and testosterone blockers. He just hadn't figured that breasts were part of the deal!

Choir Boy is a romp through a confused teenager's life. Berry's exploration, accidental or otherwise, of gender issues is laughingly real. Living half his life in the choir and the other half hiding in his room from his parents, Berry is, to say the least, naïve. Berry stumbles through life seemingly unawares of the steps he is taking until he completes them. It is a state of confusion and uncertainty that I remember well as a teenager, and I am sure exists today for many young adults. The book contains some basic exploratory sex scenes though nothing that hasn't been written about in other teen books.
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