Book review: The trans-fer student, by Elise Himes

Himes The trans fer student Himes, Elise. The Trans-fer Student. CreateSpace. 2014. $9.99. 252p. PB. 9781494733445.

After her family’s move to a new town, Rachael attends a private, all-girls school where a rumor starts to circulate that one of the new students is transgender. Terrified that the witch hunt at the school will end up with her burning at the stake, Rachael knows that she must keep her secret deeply buried.

Other recent YA novels with transgender characters have centered on their discovery that they are trans* or ways that they come out to their families. This book takes a different tack because Rachael is already out to her family and is attending a new school in stealth mode. Although Rachael’s lack of medical advice, hormone blockers, or estrogen while attending an all-girls school is unrealistic, the ridicule and stress of trying to survive high school appears genuine.

Although the stock characters can easily be found in any teen novel or after-school special, Trans-fer has a realistic, if not unique, feel. Readers who enjoy high school drama will find the pace perfect, and the personal writing style hints that this book may be at least partially autobiographical. Editing and a different title would create an appeal to teens who enjoy reading problem novels.

This novel fills a niche that has not yet been filled at a time when diverse books are desperately needed in young adult literature and is therefore recommended for public and school libraries.

Jenni Frencham, Librarian
Cesar Chavez Middle School, Hayward (CA)

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