- Publication date:1 February 2010
- Format:B format paperback
- Genres: coming-of-age, contemporary fiction
- Age guide: Older Readers, 15+
For f2m: The Boy Within
f2m: The Boy Within
By Hazel Edwards & Ryan Kennedy
Skye plays guitar in the all-female Chronic Cramps band. Making her name in the punk/indie scene is easier than FTM (female to male) transitioning: from Skye to Finn, from girl to man. Uncovering genetic mysteries about family heritage tear the family apart.
Transgender identity is more than injections and surgery, it’s about acceptance. Going public, Finn sings ftm lyrics on TV. With a little help from bemused mates and family who don’t want to lose a daughter, but who love their teenager, Finn is transitioning.
Cover designed by Grant Gittus.
John Acland –
Eighteen year old Skye is many things to many people: sister, daughter, granddaughter, friend, band-mate. But to herself Skye is something altogether different; she is he, and his name is Finn.
From the first page Skye is in a quandary: should she tick the M or F box when applying for her driver’s licence? She does, after all, plan on transitioning as soon as she can. She has researched, joined internet forums and is saving for the necessary surgery. But as she is learning there are so many unexpected elements to consider, not least of which is how her transition from female to male will affect her friendships and position in her all girl punk band, The Chronic Cramps.
While navigating this personal minefield, Skye finds an ally in Gran, and uncovers the truth of Gran’s brother, Uncle Albert, who spent the later years of his life as Alberta. With Gran’s understanding and the help of newfound FTM (Female To Male) forum friends, Skye takes her first step on the path that will ultimately lead to the birth of Finn.
While I’m sure there is a lot of co-author, Ryan Kennedy (who transitioned from female to male at age twenty-seven) in Skye, I feel this story would have far more impact if it was indeed his story, rather than a fictionalised version. However, having said this I must add that f2m does exactly what it is meant to do, which is to allow readers into the life of a transgender person, to share his hopes, fears, and very personal life-changing journey. And it’s for this very reason that I applaud the publication of this book. Anything we can do to educate young people on the differences of others, whether they be differences of culture, religion or sexual orientation can only aid in a complete understanding of what it truly means to be human.
Teens, particularly girls, will pick up this title for its curiosity factor alone. Edwards’ literary skill and Kennedy’s heart-felt experiences marry well and the result is an honest story that is both entertaining and informative.
George Ivanoff –
First-time transgender novelist Ryan Kennedy collaborates with well-known children’s author Hazel Edwards to produce a unique YA book that is bound to get a lot of publicity, both positive and negative.
Skye is an 18-year-old girl. She plays in an all-girl punk band. She has a loving family. She has friends. She also has a major problem: deep down inside, she knows that she’s actually a boy. f2m: the boy within is the story of how Skye becomes Finn — of how he deals with the transition; of how he tells his family and friends. It is a coming-of-age story about identity.
In many ways this book is a bit of an “Everything you wanted to know about gender transition but were afraid to ask” manual. It includes lots of details on the process, from counselling to hormone treatment to surgery. But it is so much more than this. The book is also a damn good story, with interesting characters, a fascinating look into the punk scene and nice touches of humour. My favourite character is Skye’s grandmother, and I enjoyed reading about her relationships with family, past and present. Her character is important to the story and skilfully woven into the narrative.
This is the sort of YA novel that is likely to make some people uncomfortable because it deals with a topic that is often considered taboo. But it doesn’t sensationalise. It humanises. Understanding is the key to tolerance — and this book opens the door to understanding. It is told from Skye/Finn’s point of view, and the reader gets to experience what is going through this teenager’s mind. This really is the sort of book that should be in every high school library. A highly recommended read!
SUE BURSZTYNSKI –
Eighteen-year-old Skye is a member of an all-girl punk rock band. Skye has never felt like a girl. Inside, (s) he is Finn, a boy. Making the decision to let Finn be outside as well as in involves a lot of work. How do you tell your family and friends and the members of your feminist rock band that you’re going to undergo female-to-male treatment and surgery? Fortunately, there’s a family precedent: great-uncle Albert … or is that great-aunt Alberta?
Skye/Finn could easily be a victim, but refuses. It isn’t going to be easy for anyone, but (s)he decides, finally, that family, friends and rock band will just have to live with it. And they do.
The book goes into enormous detail about the procedures involved in what is known as FTM. It’s a lot less common than the other way around – male to female – although it has been in the news in the last couple of years, when a man who had kept his female “equipment” had a baby because his wife couldn’t. I knew a female-to-male myself. Unlike Skye, “Jan” became “David” in her/his forties. Nobody, but nobody dared to call Jan a woman, even when she was! And David’s family and friends accepted it as Finn’s family do in the novel. At his funeral, the nephews and nieces referred to “Uncle David”, even when he was no longer there to get upset.
The novel also explores the punk rock sub-culture, which is interesting in its own right.
Ford Street Publishing has become known for taking on controversial subjects. It probably needs an author as well-known and respected as Hazel Edwards to get away with this one. Ryan Kennedy, her co-author, is himself an FTM, so knows what he is talking about.
Perhaps an afterword with a URL or organization, if any, within Australia might have helped, so that those to whom the book applies don’t have to do all the web searches that Skye/Finn did in the course of the novel.
It’s well-written and answers a lot of questions. There are some likable characters in it and some nice touches of humour. There’s even the whimsical presentation of a couple who are a female-to-male and a male-to-female. Who are, incidentally, managing just fine. Finn doesn’t like the FTM, Rodney, but hey, he doesn’t have to.
It will certainly appeal to those teenagers who are asking themselves questions about their own gender identities.
Whether or not it will have appeal for ordinary teenagers I am not sure. I suspect they will be uncomfortable with it, though this doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be out there. Will kids who say, “That is so gay!” about anything negative get enthused about characters who are not actually gay but have gender issues? I won’t know until I have put this in my library and seen how the students react. Watch this space.