Sunday, June 15, 2014

Book Review: "Adam" by Ariel Schrag

Sometimes when we're attracted to a person we bend the truth about ourselves a little bit to get them to like us. But no one does it quite like 17-year-old Adam Freedman.

As Adam's junior year of high school ends, he's not quite sure he fits in with friends anymore, because they all have girlfriends and he tends to be a little more on the awkward side. He desperately wants a girlfriend, however, and really wants to lose his virginity (although don't tell anyone he's a virgin). When his friends start pairing off in couples, leaving him the odd man out, Adam decides to spend the summer living with his sister Casey in New York City, where she is a student at Columbia and has fully immersed herself in the LGBT culture, without worrying that their parents will find out.

Adam finds himself drifting aimlessly through the summer, still feeling like a third wheel, and longing to meet the girl his dreams have envisioned—a beautiful redhead—so he can go back to his California high school a completely different person. When he meets Gillian—a redhead, no less—at a rally in support of same-sex marriage. He is instantly smitten, and when they meet again at a party, the two feel a strong connection. There's just one problem—Gillian is a lesbian, and has no desire to date a man. What's a guy to do?

Desperate to build a relationship with Gillian, he pretends to be transgender, one who was born female but has transitioned to male, which explains Adam's youthful appearance. (He's also led her to believe he's 22, the same age she is.) Adam knows that a lie, especially one so serious, isn't a good foundation on which to build a relationship, but he can't stand the thought of being without Gillian. The more intense their relationship grows, the more he feels pressure to tell the truth, but instead he learns everything there is to know about being transgender, so his cover doesn't get blown.

But Adam realizes how one lie leads to other lies, and the pressure of maintaining such a facade takes its toll on happiness. And he also learns that memorizing facts about what it's like to be transgender doesn't even scratch the surface of understanding what life is really like. Along the way he'll find himself in some compromising positions (both sexually and ethically), and he'll be more surprised than he ever imagined.

Ariel Schrag's debut novel is sweet, funny, and quirky. At times I found Adam's character a bit reprehensible, but then I remembered he was only 17, and many an immature 17-year-old has done far worse, particularly in the pursuit of sex and love. (Often more the former than the latter.) Adam pokes fun at every LGBT stereotype, and while it does raise some interesting social issues, ultimately it's simply a charming boy-meets-girl novel, albeit this one tweaks that formula a bit.

I enjoyed this book, quirks and all, and found Schrag's storytelling ability to be breezy and refreshing. I'll definitely be watching to see what comes next in her career.

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