J isn't your typical guy, uh, girl, uh... J is ever-changing; with J, you don't always quite know who- or what- you're going to get. With an identity that changes weekly, a bit of a self-destructive streak that promises trouble time and time again, a good friend who's trying hard to stay above water herself, and a neighbor who may need more help than J can give, life is never boring. Sometimes identity is not clearly defined by labels. And sometimes, just sometimes, it takes an objective bystander and a life-changing revelation to give the push needed to redefine an identity... perhaps by not defining it at all.
In this work of literary fiction, Thea Atkinson takes on the frequently misunderstood and often confusing world of transgenderism. J was born with genitalia that just doesn't always seem to match who he feels he is inside. "Anomaly" explores J's struggle to define himself to others, and, more importantly, to define himself to himself. Struggling to make others understand him, yet not even completely understanding himself, J is doomed to forever be an outsider in his own body. The author does a good job in helping to open up the door to explore what it may feel like to be given a body that just doesn't seem to fit who you are.
J's story may not be completely relatable to many people, but his/her struggle with identity was riveting not matter what your experience. Although the tumultuous struggle J had with his own relationship to himself was clearly defined, at times I felt it still lacked a bit of depth. It was well-described, and I was drawn in, but I didn't quite get all the way to actually feeling what he was experiencing. I felt like I was exploring an interesting case study...one that certainly did pluck at my heart strings, but I was still the outsider to his experience. The characters were generally richly developed and interesting. We are made to understand the closeness of J's relationship with Molly, but I wanted just that touch more. We know how they met, but how did their relationship become a little less of a friendship and a little more symbiotic? How did they become more than "just friends?" I think the ending could be easily expanded a bit as well. J experiences several intense events in a short time span, and I wanted to see a little more about how those events collided in J's brain, and his mental processing as a result. I thought the story was really well-done, overall, but I think a little more fleshing out in those areas would have made it exceptional.
This is another book that could use that final editing pass to wipe out those last few errors (your and you're were interchanged several times, for example), but that was definitely secondary to the compelling prose that was used to tell J's tale. Very readable and thought-provoking, this book delves into an area not often approached in literature, and does it very nicely. As J comes to terms with himself, the reader may also find that identity cannot always be neatly labeled and packaged. Sometimes, a man isn't just a man. A recommended read.
4 /5 stars
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