Monday, June 19, 2006

Boy 2 Girl

Book: Boy 2 Girl
Author: Terence Blacker
Published: 2005

Meet Sam Lopez, the new girl, who’s just moved to England from America. She’s tough. She’s funny. She doesn’t take any guff from anybody. She’s the most popular girl at school--every boy wants her, every girl wants to be her.

If only they knew Sam isn’t Samantha, but Samuel.

Sam’s exasperated cousin, Matt, initially dared him to make the big switch, thinking it would be good for a laugh and teach his wild cousin a thing or two. But his brilliant idea snowballs until it’s bigger than anybody, even Sam, can control. From an obviously biased teacher to the reactions of the other students to the observations of secondary characters, Blacker writes a hilarious novel that examines the way that gender is defined by the outside world.

I really took to this book, which takes a premise right out of Monty Python and uses it as a framework to ask all sorts of questions about sex and gender. Blacker also uses the unusual narrative device of telling the story from a multiplicity of first-person POVs, from Matt to the girls at school to the little old lady walking by in the park. In fact, the only character who never does have his say is Sam himself, which further underscores the theme of one’s gender being defined and interpreted by others.

While much of the focus is on the humorous Victor/Victoria dichotomy of a boy posing as a girl, Blacker also weaves in a more serious and emotional story about Sam, his dead mother, and his absent father. My only quibble with this book is that, until close to the end, the subplot involving Sam’s biological father descends into stereotypical farce rather than the inspired and thoughtful hilarity of the rest of the book.

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