Loved this novella about a kid who is transgender. It begins when he’s a child but most of the book is focused on his early adolescence. The voice was really true and sweet. It was a little more complicated and messy than the “I knew since birth that I had been assigned to the wrong gender” stories that I seem to usually read.
This book was a prequel to another novel about this same character, Dean, which I also read and loved. I really liked reading this book second but I can’t quite articulate why, so I guess there’s no reason they couldn’t be read in chronological order with this book first. To me, this book seemed even more memoir-y than the other. It feels real real real. Be warned that bunch of incredibly sad and painful things happen in this book, so it’s a quite intense reading experience. But it left me with a hopeful feeling.
It was funny to read a novella about the Harry Potter-reading, Power Rangers-loving set, because when I was a teenager those were the kids I babysat. I felt like, how can people that young have grown up to write outstanding novels? How can someone who wanted to be the Red Power Ranger even be old enough to write a novel? It made me feel really over the hill and ready for the grave for a while, but then I got over it because I was distracted by reading this great story.
This book is specifically a transgender story, but there were a lot of elements that seemed—I don’t want to say universal because that whole concept is dumb in a variety of ways, but struck me as integral growing up things. Well, that sounds just as dumb; I guess I should just use “I statements” and say that a lot of different parts of the story hit home for me. Or let me put it like this: I Know Very Well How I Got My Name has the same kind of starry literary merit that gives people the impulse to say that The Diary of Anne Frank is universal when it so clearly is about being an outsider.
What other book is this one similar to? The only thing I can think of is The Sweet In-Between by Sheri Reynolds, only because they’re both about gender-non-conforming teens and depict sexual assault in the same kind of youthful voice that is matter-of-fact and not yet ready to acknowledge that is even what happened, which is extra realistic and heart-breaking. Oh, I should say that I Know Very Well How I Got My Name isn’t YA but I think teens would like reading it especially if they’re OK with things not being spelled out for them and not broken down into tiny bite-sized chunks and if they’re OK with some things being quite disturbing, which how could you not be used to that already if you’re a teen?
The boring part where I talk about book design/copyediting: I liked the cover a whole lot, and it looks good from far away. The interior was clean and nicely laid-out, with very few typos. I’m not a big fan of the whole thing where the cover image is repeated and lightened for the back cover, but whatevs. So, overall very cool, with my one complaint (of course! what, like I’m going to not have one? that’ll be the day) being: there is nothing written on the spine, so when you put it on the shelf you don’t know what book it is.