Review: Spy Stuff by Matthew J. Metzger

Spy StuffRating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

Anton Williams has just started a new school. At age 15, that’s not at all what he wanted to do, but his old school became unbearable. Anton was born Natasha and when he began to transition, his former classmates made his life miserable. His father refuses to acknowledge him as a boy and Anton carries the guilt of his parents’ marriage unraveling. Anton just wants to blend in. Well, maybe a few friends would be okay. But a boyfriend? He doesn’t think that will be a possibility for him. Until he meets Jude.

Jude is outgoing and beautiful and makes Anton’s insides flutter. He’s the boy that makes going to school worthwhile. But Jude has only shown interest in girls, until he meets Anton. Jude quickly befriends Anton and then asks him out. But Anton is sick with the thought that he will have to tell Jude his secret. And, if Jude freaks out, then Anton will be right back to thinking that he will never get his happy ending simply because he’s transgender. Anton must take a chance, because Jude may just be his happy place.

For this week’s genre challenge in Reading Challenge Month, I chose a young adult book with a transgender main character. I don’t read a whole lot of YA and this was the first I have read with a transgender character being in their teens. It read as a somewhat intimate portrayal of being that age and transitioning while also trying to navigate all the other facets of the teen years as well.

challenge month 2016Both Anton and Jude are great characters and they are both strong in different ways. Anton always just felt a certain way and it wasn’t until he was old enough to formulate the words that he put a voice to the fact that he never felt like a girl. His parents’ marriage fell apart and while his father still wants to see him, he refuses to accept any of the changes, still refers to Anton using female pronouns, and insists it’s just a phase or that Anton is mentally ill. Anton’s mother, on the other hand, is amazingly supportive. Currently, Anton is living life as a boy and sees a therapist, but he cannot officially start medical procedures until he reaches the age of 16.

A lot of the story takes place at school where Anton finds the kids are much different than his old school. Jude is outgoing and his smile lights Anton up from the inside. Metzger did a great job here of creating first love and the thrill and rush of stomach dropping moments simply because someone looks your way. He also does a great job of getting us into Anton’s head as we feel his fear of being discovered and the nerves of falling in love for the first time.

Jude was nothing short of amazing. Everyone should have a Jude in their life. Sure he could be seen as too good to be true, but I’ll allow that as he was exactly what Anton needed. While Jude had his own family issues going on in the background, he’s confident and secure and bolsters Anton’s self esteem tremendously. While the book takes on the challenge of labels, Jude really doesn’t care what label he has, he’s not all that interested, he’s just interested in Anton.

Now it’s been a few years since I was 15, but Metzger successfully bridged that gap for me. While the book lends more to the emotional side, it’s not overwrought and there were interesting pieces of information to be gleaned from Anton, as well as Jude. Anton and Jude find themselves dealing with adult issues at a younger age and they are also confronted with sexual situations. While the scenes, with the exception of kissing, are off page, it is a recurring focus that does run throughout the book.

The book is set in England and the dialogue reads as teens speaking naturally for their setting. However, this was one area that drew me out of the story since I was less familiar with the flow of their words and I couldn’t quite fall into the book as I would have liked. But, that’s a subjective response as the book was desirably authentic.

I would recommend Spy Stuff for all that is and not what it isn’t. While Anton has not been having an easy time and the book highlights his fears and doubts, his story is also hopeful and positive as Anton begins to find his way.

This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for Genre Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous prize from Less Than Three Press. Three lucky winners will each receive a selection of print books. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Genre Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!


  1. Normally YA books are not a first choice for me (too far removed from the target age range!!) and often times I find the characters are either portrayed too old or too young for their stated age (particularly in those set in US so it may be cultural issues). I have enjoyed other Matthew Metzger books and it helps that he is British so settings and the YA aspects are therefore more familiar.
    Anton is a great character and I liked seeing how he got more confident through the book. Whilst not preachy, lots of issues transgender people face were highlighted and discussed without being over the top. 
    Jude, and the other classmates, were perhaps a bit too good to be true but did a good job of showing teens – most are far too focussed on themselves to spend much time on thinking of others, but also spout what is in their head without thinking and generally without malice. I thought the PSHE lessons were a good way to introduce topics into the book and the class answers were reflective of British teens (I own two!!).
    The story covers only quite a short elapsed time but a lot of emotional time for the boys and I really liked it.

  2. I started reading Spy Stuff last night and so far am really enjoying it.  I agree that Anton and Jude are both great characters.

    Thanks for your review!

  3. Sounds like a really good book. I am afraid I had let this one go without taking much notice, I did not find the blurb engaging (Young Adult is never my first choice), but your review has intrigued me and now I want to read it. Thank you!

    • If it wasn’t for the challenge I may have passed this by as well for the same reason but I’m glad I read it. Thanks Susana.

  4. I just checked out a book by this author today on Amazon (What It Looks Like). Until today I don’t think I’d ever heard of him, and now I’ve seen 2 very good reviews in one day. Thanks for the review. 🙂

  5. You’re welcome, Barbra. I reviewed a book of his a while ago and I enjoyed his style. That book was also completely different than this one.  Thanks for the comment.

  6. This normally wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but it does sound intriguing. Thanks for the review, Michelle. (I assume it’s you from prior comments, but I don’t see the standard signature.)

  7. I don’t read a lot of YA as well, I tend to have hard time connecting with young characters and prefer to read those near my age or older. But this sounds intriguing. Thanks for the review 🙂

  8. You’re welcome!

  9. I want to give this a read. I’ve only read maybe two other stories dealing with a transgender main character.

  10. Thanks for the review! I don’t read a lot of YA either but I’ve heard great things about this book. I’ll have to give it a try.

  11. Having a transgender son, I tend to stay away from books with transgender characters. I’ve lived the drama & would rather not read it in fiction & would especially hate it if the author wasn’t careful with the topic. I also read way more YA than I prefer. I’m glad this one worked out for you, thanks for the review.

    • This author is transgender but I can understand not wanting to read something so close to home. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  12. I don’t tend to read YA that often, but I have seen many really positive reviews for Metzger’s writing, so I’m just going to have to give this book a try! I can’t resist!

  13. Ooh, this book sounds like something I would just love! I’m glad you enjoyed it as well. It’s certainly going on my wishlist!

  14. Purple Reader says:

    Good review, thanks. I like glbtq YA stories, and this one with a trans character sound really interesting to me.

  15. I’m glad you got to read this one, Michelle, for your own challenge and to share it with all of us. I love his books, and it was great to finally see him write a trans young adult story. He excels at making his characters feel very real, and he always has a great talent for humor. He has a wonderful backlist that I hope people will check out. There’s adult books too!

    • I was pleased I chose this one as well. He is a talented writer. I reviewed one of his adult books almost two years ago that I enjoyed but then never got to anything else. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      • I had to check out your review once you’d told me. It was bittersweet seeing it was Some Mistakes. Breathless Press going under before I could get that one in paperback still makes me sigh. And now it only lives on in our ereaders if we got it back then. He just released an adult book with a trans MC, which I haven’t read yet, but I hear wonderful things. If you end up reading anything else of his, I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

        • It’s great to see you enjoyed that one as well. Jay mentioned above that she has a Metzger book on her schedule and I think that’s the one you’re referring too. We can both look forward to her review. Thanks again!

  16. It sounds like it could be heartrending at times, but ultimately uplifting!

  17. Thanks for your review, i haven’t read this book but it certainly looks interesting. I did read The Suicidal Peanut by this author and i really liked that one.

  18. Thanks for the review! This really sounds cute. I’ll be adding this to my list.

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