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.
Both 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!