Book Review: My Brother’s Name is Jessica by John Boyne

My Brother's Name is Jessica - John Boyne

Title: My Brother’s Name is Jessica

Author: John Boyne

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 256

Rating: B-

Recommended?: Yes

I was curious about this book’s controversy, so I figured I would give it a try. It was… okay. It’s mostly about a boy’s struggle to understand his transgender sister in the midst of her coming out. I didn’t like the main character Sam; he was a dick and his parents were absolutely horrible, intolerant people. When Jessica comes out as trans they take every possible opportunity to shame her and make things all about them. One of the things I enjoyed about this book was the writing style and the humor the author infused into it, providing a reprieve from the wrongness of the actions of Sam and his parents.

I really did like Jessica. I thought she was a really strong person and I felt for her. I thought the way John Boyne wrote her struggles with her family accepting her gender identity was surprisingly sensitive, but I didn’t believe in the parents’ big ‘redemption’ moment. I know Sam was just a kid but he treated Jessica terribly and I couldn’t help but dislike him for his selfish behavior. Sam, Jessica, and Sam’s love interest Laura were all believable characters but all the adults felt over-the-top to me.

I guess John Boyne was trying to satirize the parents’ self-absorption and political aspirations (Sam and Jessica’s mom is obsessed with being Prime Minister) but it didn’t quite work. Overall I would urge people who’ve heard bad things about this book to read it themselves and form their own opinions. That said, I do think there are much better trans-themed stories out there and it might bother some people that this book is from a cisgender perspective with a lot of negativity.

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