Wood, Jennie. A Boy Like Me. 215 Ink, 2014. $12.99 264p. PB. 9780692238066.
Set in a small North Carolina town, Jennie Wood’s A Boy Like Me, introduces the reader to Tara, a new student, who befriends Katherine the protagonist and suggests the name Peyton is more suitable. Peyton feels uncomfortable with the role of girl but, at 13, is not able to articulate a more authentic identity. The story follows their on-and-off romantic relationship through high school as Peyton continues to struggle with family, school, and societal expectations. Throughout the story, their moments of passion feel truly authentic.
While in some aspects similar to Gabe in Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Peyton is younger at the beginning of the story and much more confused. Both novels have an older mentor, and a passion for music drives both stories. However, A Boy Like Me includes just about every possible source of adolescent pain from parental abandonment and dysfunction including a father dying of AIDS, to bullying and gay bashing, rigid school and religious authorities, attempted suicide, unwanted pregnancy, and interracial dating. The book’s happy ending scarcely makes up for all the suffering, and Tara’s consistent support of Peyton’s core identity, despite Peyton’s denials and self-sabotage, borders on fantasy.
Nevertheless, A Boy Like Me is an affirming story that traces the path of self-discovery of one female to male transgender teenager and every library that serves teens has one or several patrons on that journey. Other teens may read the novel to understand a friend or out of simple curiosity about current celebrities.
Virginia Beach Public Library (Retired)