Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2011
: Growing up, J (born as Jennifer) always thought of himself as a boy stuck in the body of a girl. In elementary school J shunned his mom’s attempts to stick him in dresses and preferred the rough-and-tumble play of boys on the playground. Now, as a teenager, J’s Puerto Rican mother and Jewish father want him to think about his future and one day start a family, a possibility that makes J feel misunderstood and anxious about what lies ahead. So after an argument with his best friend, J strikes out on his own. He starts classes at a school for transgender and gay teens, but the complications resulting from who he is and who he wants to be prevent J from truly connecting with anyone. Fed up hiding inside layers of oversized t-shirts, J decides to explore testosterone treatments and embarks on a path that will test his patience, maturity, and commitment. Author Cris Beam’s extraordinary understanding of this often overlooked population shows in J--a complex, conflicted character whose emotional journey will resonate beyond the final page. Equally impressive is Beam’s vivid dialog, which illuminates relationships and situations that any teen who has felt isolated will easily relate to. Thoughtfully researched and written, I Am J
is ultimately an inspiring novel about deciding to lead the life one is meant to--no matter at what cost. --Jessica Schein
From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-When J reached adolescence, he quit the swim team and began covering his body with extra clothes to hide the fact that he had been born a girl. At 17, J dreams of being accepted as a boy, binding his breasts and despising his monthly periods. His close friend, Melissa, a cutter, tries her best to understand and support him. His parents are confused, angry, and sad. He runs away from home and enrolls in a special school for gay and transgender teens, where he makes a helpful friend, a transgender girl. He also embarks on a shaky romance with Blue, a straight female artist who believes J is a boy and to whom he must eventually confess the truth. When he learns about testosterone and how it can help with his transformation, he is overjoyed, despite the obstacles he faces in getting the drug legally. Finally, J turns 18 and is able to begin getting his shots. He applies to and is accepted at college to study photography as a transgender young man, and holds out hope that one day his parents will accept him as well. Beam is the author of the informative adult book, Transparent: Love, Family and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers (Houghton, 2007). This novel is just as impressive. J is an especially vivid character, and the supporting characters are carefully drawn. Told in third person, the story is believable and effective due to insightful situations, realistic language, and convincing dialogue. Readers who relished Julie Anne Peters's Luna (Little, Brown, 2004) will snap it up.-Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, Fort Collins, CO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.