Title: The Green Indian Problem
Author: Jade Leaf Willetts
Genre: Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 208
When this slim but affecting novel begins, Green is a seven-year-old transgender boy growing up in the 1980’s in Wales. He can’t understand why God put him in the wrong body and is frustrated by his family members’ insistence on giving him girls’ toys and clothes. He has a crush on Sigourney Weaver and hates his mom’s abusive boyfriend, who forces them to live in fear of his sporadic outbursts.
Then his best friend Michael disappears, and Green decides to investigate. The story is told through Green’s innocent, inquisitive eyes and for the most part it works really well. Sometimes his narrative voice is a little too cute/precious but overall, he’s a compelling protagonist who’s thoroughly easy to sympathize with.
I liked that this book wasn’t all about Green being trans. I did feel like the first half of the book (before Michael goes missing, when Green is just living his day-to-day life and struggling with his dysphoria) was better than the second. It felt like a bit of an abrupt tonal change, especially when it happens more than halfway through the book.
I know it would be completely unrealistic for Green to go into a hardcore investigation but the way it plays out feels a little too contrived. The way Green stumbles upon the truth of what happened to Michael is awfully convenient and everything wraps up very quickly after that.
That said, I thought this was a very good book with an endearing protagonist who I fell in love with almost instantly. It deals with a variety of tough subjects with nuance and empathy, and I hope it’s true that the author is working on a sequel, because I would love to see what happens to this character next.
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