Terence Blacker, Author . FSG $16 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-30926-8

Blacker (The Angel Factory ) brings gender bending to a new level of hilarity and suspense in this contemporary novel set in suburban London. Matthew, a Year Eight student, is wary when his parents agree to take custody of Matthew's recently orphaned, "tough-guy" cousin from America. True to his rebellious reputation, 13-year-old Sam (whom Matthew characterizes as "an accident in human form") starts stirring up trouble almost as soon as he arrives, insulting Matthew's family and getting into a brawl with one of Matthew's best friends. To get even, Matthew and his gang of buddies invent an initiation rite for Sam: he must attend his first week of school dressed as a girl. Surprisingly enough, not only does Sam agree to the proposition, but passes his "test" with flying colors. Dressed in a skirt, he fools everyone—teachers, the principal, male and female classmates—into believing he is a sassy, fully liberated young lady, destined to become one of the most popular students at Bradbury Hill School. Told from multiple viewpoints (including both teens and adults), the story offers several entertaining twists (such as Sam inheriting a fortune and playing a game of cat and mouse with his long-absent, criminal father). On a more subtle level, the author conveys how Sam undergoes a transformation on the inside as well as the outside. Gradually evolving into a more open, vulnerable and sympathetic adolescent, the character of Sam-turned-Samantha will prompt readers to reconsider their preconceptions about the sexes and the roles people play. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/17/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Genre: Children's
Ebook - 978-0-330-47641-6
Paperback - 301 pages - 978-0-312-37146-3
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