Being the veracious reader that I am, I think it’s fair to say that my reading tastes are pretty refined. I know which authorS I like, which ones I dislike, and what genres/styles appeal to me. I wouldn’t call myself completely immovable, but as is human nature, I tend to gravitate towards what I know I like, and I have to push myself (or be pushed) to read outside of my comfort zone.
Recently, I challenged myself to pick a book that was completely different than my normal reading material. For me, that ended up being freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark, publishing this October with Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
When I first read the synopsis, it didn’t sound at all like the type of book I would normally be interested in, and I very nearly scrolled to the next book on my kindle. Thankfully I hesitated long enough to realize how important it is for me as a buyer and as a reader to occasionally kick myself out of my comfort zone and be open to new reading experiences. If I only stick to what I know I like, there are a lot of amazing books that I would be missing out on, and my knowledge base would become increasingly narrow.
Told in verse from alternating points of view, Freakboy is about a high school senior and star wrestler who is struggling with his sexual identity, and realizes that he is transgender.
This book was absolutely amazing, and I’m so glad I decided to read it. Brendan is an extremely rich character. He likes girls, loves His girlfriend Vanessa, but also wishes he was a girl. When he researches his feelings on the Internet and realizes that he fits the definition of Transgender, he feels shame, terror, and extremely alone.
The other points of view are Vanessa’s, who is completely devoted to Brendan- to the point of sacrificing her girlfriends to be with him, and Angel- a transgender boy who is living as a girl, and works at an outreach centre for LGBT youth.
As soon as I started reading, all of my doubts about this book vanished, and I was fully absorbed. This is not only about struggles to define sexuality. It’s a universal theme of trying to define one’s self. These characters are struggling with who they are and where they fit in the universe, with all the highs and lows that come with it. My world got a little bit bigger for reading this, and I was reminded once again that while I know what I have liked in the past, I can’t possibly know what I might like in the future if I never take a reading chance.
So here’s my challenge to all of you: The next time you are shopping for books, instead of reaching for that familiar author/genre, pick up something unfamiliar and completely different than your normal reading fare. You might just surprise yourself and discover a treasure that otherwise would have passed you by.
Rachel Seigel is the Sales and Selection Strategist for Edu Reference Publisher’s Direct in Toronto Ontario. She also maintains a personal blog at http://readingtimbits.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter as @rachelnseigel.