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Shifting Tides Kindle Edition
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3 Stars overall
3-4 Stars for the young adult reader
2 Stars for the adult reader.
Young adult age-range: 13+ due to kissing and profanity. The 'C' word.
With this tough subject matter, a reader is torn between rating the subject matter or the story itself and the way it was written. I have to be honest about my feelings and thoughts, and express my opinion. It's my duty to my followers not to hand out 5 stars just because an author chooses transgender as a platform in their storytelling.
I believe using fiction to comfort and educate our youth is an admirable thing, and was hoping for an exploration into the depths of emotion a FtM transgender youth goes through on their journey.
If a child is going through a major change and struggling, only to read a character going through the same thing, they can say to themselves, "They got through it, and so can I."
That's not what I felt I received- instead it was a syrupy romance.
If there was one word I'd use to describe Shifting Tides, it would be shallow, and I mean this by the very definition of the word. When dealing with difficult subject matter, there is a gray area, or sweet spot, that is nearly impossible to achieve. Either it's on one end, where the author ends up sounding preachy, with too much information, or it's too light, making a mockery of the issue.
At the start of Shifting Tides, I could relate. When I was growing up, all through my teenage years, I only wanted to wear jeans, a hoodie, and flip-flops, while pulling my hair out of my face. My sister and mother loved to shop, loved girly things. I couldn't relate to them, so I could relate to Angela. The opening scene felt straight out of my past, to a certain extent. Even today, knowing it's a necessary evil, I do not enjoy a pedicure.
Those were the only reasons showing why Angela decided to become Adam.
Am I transgender? No.
Are men who enjoy manicures and the color pink trans? No.
In the past, I've been told I have a 'male' signature to my mind and emotions, and that is at the core of my issues with Shifting Tides. No, my mind is neither male nor female, it is only me. I think like 'me'.
I thought we were past gender stereotypes.
I also need to point out, one of the characters is pansexual, with a better understanding of it than I have, when he is 15 to my 38. It wasn't until a year or so ago that I made the decision to label myself as pansexual, after struggling with the label bi, not feeling as if it 'fit'. My decision was after a lifetime of experience, while Blaine's was just added in without emotion, as if it solved the issue of Blaine being in a relationship with a FtM transgender.
Angela, not enjoying how her mother uses her as a dress-up doll and girly companion, watches a video in sex-ed about transgender, and immediately jumps to the conclusion that she is actually a guy because she wants to wear jeans and her feet are ticklish during a pedicure. While what I've written above makes it sound as if I'm lessening the major impact this has on a person, but that is not what I'm doing. I felt the book made light, levity, of such a major impact on a human's identity.
Angela chooses the name Adam, and then decides she is now a he, without any true depth or emotion. Shallow. Instead of a sense of empowerment, Angela/Adam is now worried about shopping, buying clothing, and preening, exactly what she was complaining about with her/his mother earlier in the book.
"How do guys dress?" "How do they walk and talk?" "I'll have to learn to talk like a guy- walk like a guy." "I'll have to learn to stand up to pee." "Maybe I'll take up soccer." "Learn to dress like a guy."
NO! You don't have to learn anything, Angela/Adam. You have to be YOU. That's the point. You be YOU!
Angela's mother had her wearing a girly mask, while Adam chose to wear a masculine mask, but neither truly expressed who the soul represented.
I must be a gay guy! Adam said a few times over the course of the book.
What was missing was an existential crisis as Angela transitioned into Adam. Obviously the first steps are the name and clothing for the outside appearance, as a comfort to finally be who you truly are (not put on another mask you believe is required of you to be a 'boy'). But within a week or so, Adam already knew he was getting sexual reassignment surgery, as if that wasn't a major decision to be discussed with other post-surgery FtM, doctors, family and friends, a therapist- as if all transgenders alter their bodies. Some education for both the reader and Angela/Adam would have added some depth. How not all transgender choose surgery, but see their bodies as an extension of themselves and not a part of their gender. How sexual reassignment is costly, requires long recovery rates and many surgeries, and removes all chance of having children. Hormone therapy would be the next logical step, after talking with a doctor. But Adam was speaking as if it was a quick 'fix' to go from female to male sexually.
I won't go into detail about the lack of support from the parents, as the book has not one, but TWO, sets of parents abandoning their children. Yes, this is a sad reality for LGBTQ youth, but two was overkill as it lessened the emotional impact.
I do need to note the last conversation between the aunt and the mother, as I felt it highly inappropriate in a young adult novel. As a woman, seeing a woman call another woman the 'c' word, while her daughter/son overhears, that's unforgivable, no matter the context.
The following is said by Angela/Adam's aunt- his advocate.
"If you want a real daughter, then go ask your preacher to put one into your shriveled-up (c-word removed but used in the body of the book), and hope that it wasn't your genes that made the mistake in making Adam a girl in the first place."
That passage made me sick on many levels. Women-shaming, as if the state of her vag is a reflection of her person. Religion-shaming 'your preacher'. Women-shaming, as if a parent is to blame for having a transgender child, which also highlights how the aunt believes Angela/Adam is abnormal. Nothing is wrong with Adam. Angela's mother did nothing wrong, her genes weren't tainted to create Angela into Adam. Ageism with the shriveled-up c-word.
This is not standing up for Adam- Adam is already struggling with the fact that he has female sex parts- he doesn't need to feel shame about that fact, like the rest of the women being shamed, while hearing his aunt and advocate trash both of his parents. Bringing genetics into it, when the aunt trashed the parents, Adam would feel shame on a cellular level, as he is his parents' child.
I won't comment on the romance in the book, as I felt the transgender issue should have been the focus of the story. But I will say, young adults will probably swoon for the romance, especially with Blaine as the perfect boyfriend without flaws.
What I wanted in the novel, I will deliver to those reading my review instead.
You be you! There is no such thing as society's opinion on your state of being. You are you, and that's all you can be if you want to be happy.