You might already know this, but 2021 is going to be an amazing year for books with trans main characters. I got a chance to read my 3 most anticipated ones early, for which I’m so grateful, because it’s exactly what my non-binary heart needed! In this post, I will share my reviews of each of these books, so you hopefully get an idea of if these books are a good pick for you as well.
All three of these books were 5 star reads for me, and they’re so special to me already. They’re very different books that are all so incredibly needed: a very empowering novel, a coming out story, and a romcom!
Steven Salvatore – Can’t Take That Away
An empowering and emotional debut about a genderqueer teen who finds the courage to stand up and speak out for equality when they are discriminated against by their high school administration.
Carey Parker dreams of being a diva, and bringing the house down with song. They can hit every note of all the top pop and Broadway hits. But despite their talent, emotional scars from an incident with a homophobic classmate and their grandmother’s spiraling dementia make it harder and harder for Carey to find their voice.
Then Carey meets Cris, a singer/guitarist who makes Carey feel seen for the first time in their life. With the rush of a promising new romantic relationship, Carey finds the confidence to audition for the role of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, in the school musical, setting off a chain reaction of prejudice by Carey’s tormentor and others in the school. It’s up to Carey, Cris, and their friends to defend their rights–and they refuse to be silenced.
Told in alternating chapters with identifying pronouns, debut author Steven Salvatore’s Can’t Take That Away conducts a powerful, uplifting anthem, a swoony romance, and an affirmation of self-identity that will ignite the activist in all of us.
My new goal in life is to do whatever it takes to protect Carey.
This is such a messy contemporary, and brilliantly so. It just feels so incredibly real, and at the same time all of the bad things are balanced out by all the good, affirming, supportive things. Really, there’s even on-page therapy!! Which means that even though this has its hard moments, it was ultimately a really comforting and empowering read.
CWs: suicidal ideation, depression, assault, transphobia, misgendering, homophobia/queerphobia, bullying, Alzheimer’s, death of a grandparent
Ray Stoeve – Between Perfect and Real
A moving YA debut about a trans boy finding his voice—and himself.
Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?
“The possibilities are endless.”
What a perfect way to end such a perfectly real book. One of the themes of this book is that there’s no one way to be trans; being trans comes with infinite possibilites. Dean’s story highlights one of those possibilities, but also makes room for all of the others, in the way Dean debates what his transition should look like and the way so many other trans people are featured in this book – I loved the support group Dean went to!
I read this book in one sitting, I just could not put it down. Dean’s story spoke to me so much and I loved reading a trans coming out story, we need them so badly!
CWs: transphobia, misgendering, homophobia, bullying, gender dysphoria, mention of a trans person’s suicide, deadnaming of said trans person (which I’ll admit is the one thing in this book I did find unnecessary and I wish it wasn’t included)
Emery Lee – Meet Cute Diary
Felix Ever After meets Becky Albertalli in this swoon-worthy, heartfelt rom-com about how a transgender teen’s first love challenges his ideas about perfect relationships.
Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.
When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.
In this charming novel by Emery Lee, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.
Ever since I learned about this book’s existence, I’ve been craving it so much. The more I heard about it, the more I knew this was something I desperately needed in my life. So I’m so grateful to have gotten the chance to read it early! My expectations were through the roof, but I can still say they were exceeded. This was a DELIGHT.
In the beginning of the book, Noah says he has his blog, the Meet Cute Diary, as a way “to bring love to trans kids in need”, and I feel like that’s also exactly what this book is going to do. It feels revolutionary to me to have a trans book that’s this happy.
I’ve already seen some negative reviews saying people didn’t like Noah, and honestly? Come at me. I will fight you. No, but seriously, Noah gets to be a real teenager in this book and I think that’s so important. And that means he gets to be a little selfish and a little self-absorbed. I honestly really loved Noah as a main character, though, and I didn’t find him unlikeable, just realistically flawed. I also think he went through a lot of character development throughout the story.
I cannot express how much I needed this book and the main reason for that is just how much it’s filled with trans joy and how much it’s a book about a trans MC that’s so goddamn fluffy. Being trans, I’ve come to expect transphobia to always be a major part of any narrative about trans people, so I almost found myself anticipating it here, and it just never came. That isn’t to say the book is unrealistic – the transphobia that Noah and his friends do deal with just doesn’t get a spotlight. It stays in the background to create such a safe space for trans readers, and I know I will find myself rereading this book time and time again whenever I’m in need of comfort and trans joy.
CWs: mentions of past suicide attempt, panic attacks, references to transphobia, vomiting