In many ways, I labored over the review I should write for Savannah Blue’s latest release, Him Her Me You Us: A Transgender Story. Essentially, this is a view of a trans man’s life, River Roth, as he transitions physically, loses a girlfriend, gains a partner, and tries to publish his first novel. River is rather lost—angry at what he sees in the mirror and scared of it as well and all over the place emotionally, as one might expect. However, the novel he has written is also his own story, in essence, and when his new boyfriend calls him out on the lack of editing, the mishmash the novel is, and the fact that it is, for the most part, River telling his story, something shifts inside River and he realizes he can live life on his terms and no one else’s.
I can’t describe much more of this novel simply because to do so would be to give away various key plot points that might ruin the reading of it for others. However, I labored over what to say here because parts of this story were quite good—gritty and realistic, particularly when River had to confront himself in the mirror prior to the hormones really beginning to change his appearance. What fell short was the way the author chose to give us what felt like mini-transition facts that often pulled me from the story. It was as if Blue found a brochure about transitioning and took a piece of it out of context to illustrate the story.
Here’s the thing, I have read authors who are trans. While I do NOT in any way feel an author must be trans in order to write a story with such characters, I do think that a great deal of research needs to be done in order to present an authentic journey. I am not saying the author didn’t do their homework, but there were some moments in this story that really threw me. Yes, I understand this is a romance and fiction, but if you are going to preface your novel by telling a story of your encounter with a trans person asking you to write a novel about the trans journey, then you darn well better get it right. However, there were places here where things just didn’t feel right to me. There were so many gaps in this book that I got really frustrated with River’s story, rather than feel his plight. For instance, despite whatever his former breast size might have been and that he spent a lot of time apart from his girlfriend, Beatrice, just how did she not notice that River had top surgery? The way in which that was revealed was just flat out strange. Also, please don’t get me started on the anal sex sans lube—that was just too strange to comprehend.
Listen, I can wrap my mind around River being confused and unsure of exactly how far they want to physically transition into the sex they have always known they are, but I felt like this character was half formed—often leaving me more frustrated than enlightened. I could go on and on with numerous examples of elements in this story that felt contrived or incorrect. However, the thing is I liked the latter half of this novel—it wasn’t badly written, but just felt under researched.
I can’t really speak to the authenticity of River’s journey as I am a cisgender woman, but I can say that there are some really stellar trans authors out there writing novels that are, I feel, more indicative of the experience a trans person goes through. In the end, this was a decent novel that had incredible potential and an admittedly lovely romance. The ending left me really gob smacked, and not in a good way, but the journey overall was entertaining, if not always realistic feeling.