Jay’s identity is split. Legally he is Jenna and is in a female dorm at college, but in his own mind he is a young man and wants to live as such. Struggling in math, Jay seeks a tutor, which is how he meets Roswell.
Jay is attracted to Roswell, but beyond this the pair immediately click, sharing the same teasing sense of humor and interests. What is initially a comfortable friendship quickly develops into more as they spend time together. However, Jay is left confused by Roswell’s insistence that he wants to take time with their physical relationship, which often contradicts his actions. Jay blames himself and the fact that he is transgender for this and the issue becomes a real threat to the couple’s future. When Roswell reveals his huge and surprising secret to Jay, Jay is left angry – until he has no choice but to help the one he is falling in love with.
Second Skin is an unusual story and, honestly, I was astonished by Roswell’s revelation, although I loved the way in which Whitehall ties the two characters together and the author made a believer out of me!
Roswell and Jay make a charming couple and the times they spend together are wonderful for the reader to share, particularly because they are both so geeky. Their interests and conversations mean that we are able to laugh with them, not at them, and this makes Second Skin a really enjoyable story.
Whitehall ensures that we understand Jay and his insecurities, especially those about his body, and although we don’t want to see him and Roswell fight, we feel compassion towards Jay and the situation.
Anthony had seemed perfect. Sweet and funny and bi. If he slipped up Jay’s pronouns sometimes? Well, Jay had tried to be understanding. Except the more physical they got, the more Jay had realized that Anthony wasn’t seeing him as a guy. And wasn’t respecting the lines Jay drew around things that made him uncomfortable.
Second Skin is a story where sci-fi meets the reality of living as transgender and in my opinion Whitehall’s cross-over is clever and well imagined. Second Skin leaves the reader thinking about issues of identity and acceptance and I think it will appeal to a wide audience.