Friday, 29 December 2017

This Is How It Always Is

Author: Laurie Frankel
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, LGBTQ
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 336
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Flatiron Books
First Published: January 2017
First Line: "But first, Roo was born."

Book Description from GoodReadsThis is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.

This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.

This is how children change…and then change the world.

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.

When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.

Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.

This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.

My Rating: 2.5 stars ("just okay")

My Review: I'm going to start this review by applauding the author for bringing the topic of raising a transgender child to her readers. But while the subject matter is important, and the author brings some of her personal experience to the story, this book was a struggle for me.

I think it's important to have books that focus on LGBTQ issues and I went into this book wanting a bird's eye view of what it's like to raise a transgender child. I wanted to understand the different perspectives of various family members - their frustrations, fears etc for their child/sibling. But I didn't get that connection to the characters. Instead, we're given a family who was too perfect to be believable. There wasn't enough hesitation, fear, doubt, concern etc by Claude's family members and any complications were easily solved without major outbursts but with a quick discussion, sometimes leaving readers with hard to believe results. A lot of focus was on their day-to-day family dialogue which didn't give readers better insight into the characters but was used to spoon feed readers on the issues surrounding gender dysphoria/transgender which gave the book a teachy, artificial feel. 

This book has a lot of heart and will instigate discussion, but I can't help but feel that this isn't 'how it always is' when a family has a transgender child. It lacked the tension, emotion and real struggle that I think many transgender people face. It focuses on a weak main story line with several smaller tangents (the 'trip' story line didn't work for me at all) and readers are left with everything neatly wrapped up in the end.

This was a sweet read that has a fairy tale quality to it but I was hoping for a more realistic portrayal of a family and child who are struggling with the issues surrounding gender dysphoria.

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