Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Happy Families" by Tanita S. Davis

240 pages

Teenage Ysabel and Justin have their share of adolescent problems, but their family life has always been great. The two of them are close friends, and their parents have a loving relationship and are supportive of both their children. Then, all at once, Ysabel and Justin discover a secret about their father that changes their world forever. They each tell their stories in alternating chapters as their family falls apart and tries to come back together again.

Spoiler alert: It's almost impossible to write this review without giving anything away, so stop reading now if you don't want to know what the big discovery is...anyway, I really like this book and it's going to stick with me for a while. In some ways, it feels like a pretty realistic portrayal of what a family goes through when one of the parents is transgender. Ysabel and Justin deal with it differently, but both of them struggle terribly with the news. They are totally confused and sometimes angry, but they still love their dad. At first I didn’t quite buy their parents’ behavior. Their mom is totally supportive and accepts her husband’s desire to live as a woman, and he still loves her and wants to be with her. This didn’t seem realistic to me at first, but when I thought about it I decided that it’s good for this book to defy stereotypes and show that people can be transgender and still be technically heterosexual, and for their significant others to accept them as they are. The ending is a bit cheesy, but overall this is an interesting story that addresses a very complicated issue in an entertaining way.

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