This graphic novel continues the story of two middle-school students, Nitori Shuichi and Takatsuki Yoshino, who question their gender identities. The boy Nitori-kun wants to be a girl while Takatsuki-san is a girl who longs to be a boy. In this volume, the class brings Nitori-kun and Chiba Saori’s rendition of Romeo and Juliet to the stage which includes a gender twist: Romeo and Juliet wish to trade both names and genders with one another.
Although Nitori-kun and Chiba-san worked on the script together, they have two different thoughts when it comes to casting: Chiba-san wants to play Romeo and have Nitori-kun play Juliet while Nitori-kun wants Takatsuki-san to play Romeo to his Juliet. However, neither Chiba-san nor Nitori-kun’s casting schemes come to fruition causing friction among the characters.
The main question that drives the narrative is asked of Nitori-kun by Chiba-san: “Do you like Takatsuki-san as a boy who likes a girl? Or do you want to become a girl and be loved by Takatsuki-san as a girl?” (Takako 015-016). While Nitori-kun battles with his response, he also considers wearing a bra as Takatsuki-san begins to save money for a breast binder.
Although these two middle schoolers face tough questions Takatsuki-san and Nitori-kun have each other, and their friendship allows them to depend on one another for discussion, comfort and a sense of solidarity throughout their journeys. Ultimately, the environment in which these characters grow is supportive and gentle.
Wandering Son is a beautifully composed series with gorgeous art, and a moving storyline. A full understanding of this series requires reading them from the beginning in order to avoid confusion, but it is worth the time. This volume as well as the complete series is an important purchase for public and school libraries alike. There are few books in which the topic of gender identity is tackled, even fewer for middle school students, and this series does it well.
Reviewer: Shelley Mastalerz
Teen Services Librarian, Burien Library