Author(s): John Boyne
Sam has known his sister Jessica all his life. Tonight is the first time they're going to meet.
Sam Waver has always been a loner: bullied, struggling at school, with parents who have very little time for him. The one person he has always been able to rely on is his beloved older sibling - but when they announce that they are transitioning, Sam's life is thrown upside down. He's convinced nothing will ever be the same again - but as Sam is about to discover, nothing is more constant than love.
A moving and heartfelt portrait of one family's journey to acceptance, from a master storyteller.
'A story with so much heart that the pages practically pulse. Both funny and moving... this is a must-read for all ages' Irish Independent
There is currently quite a bit of controversy about John Boyne's new book about the family of a trans teen. Much of the criticism is valid - the story does centre the experiences of Sam, the cisgendered younger brother of Jessica, and her parents rather than the experiences of Jessica herself however it does not validate their pain; instead these characters realise their difficulties are really irrelevant and that it is Jessica's experience that matters. It is up to you whether you wish to read it or to avoid it; we think there is little on this topic for this age group and that this book will kickstart some important discussions and hopefully get some young people (and adults) to rethink their own behaviours.
Thirteen-year-old Sam has always been close with his older sibling - but when he learns that the person he's always known as his brother, Jason, is actually his sister and that her name is Jessica, he completely refuses to accept it. Sam and Jessica's parents would also rather pretend it is not happening - Mum is a Cabinet minister, Dad is her private secretary, and they're both climbing the greasy pole of British party politics - and a transgender child is rather inconvenient to say the least. What is the Daily Mail going to say?
The family's refusal to accept Jessica for who she is leads to greater complications for all of them - Sam focuses on the difficulties Jessica has caused him and tries to force her to be his brother - but through it all, we (and Sam if he were honest) can see that it is Jessica who is really having the most difficult time. So how long can they keep pretending? And how long can they ignore her pain?
Surprisingly, this is a very funny book. Boyne's depiction of the politician parents is incisive and hilarious - they are so laughably awful that it is a joy to hate them. They say all the terrible things and so does Sam - as a naive protagonist, he can ask all the stupid questions - and they are questions which young readers are quite likely to have.
We're recommending this for 11/12+ but it can definitely be read by younger readers who are curious about the topic and are okay with discussions of pornography - although many of the political jokes will go over their heads.
'...this poignant and disarming story is full of heart and its crescendo will give you tingles' Attitude Magazine
'Outstanding' Irish Examiner