Thursday, 24 October 2019

Review: My Brother's Name is Jessica by John Boyne

What happens when, one day, your older brother announces that he is actually your sister? British author John Boyne who you may know best as the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas ponders this question in My Brother's Name is Jessica, a book about Sam, a boy in his early teens, who struggles to find acceptance when his beloved older brother Jason makes the tough decision to tell his family that he is a transgender woman. Their parents, their mother a conservative MP with ambitions of becoming Prime Minister and their father who acts as her Secretary, do not want to know and hope to shove the whole thing under the carpet. Sam, meanwhile, just does not understand. And that is what the crux of this story is about. One kid, struggling, and often sadly failing, to understand just how difficult life is for another. 

There is no doubt about it, this is a compelling read. Sam is an interesting kid, one who loves his older sister, but just doesn't understand Jessica's struggles. And until he visits their aunt, there is really no adults who can offer Sam any kind of useful direction on how he can best support Jessica. Fortunately, Sam is a good kid at heart and it is he who may best be able to convince his parents and perhaps even the wider public that Jessica is just as worthy of love and acceptance as anyone else.

Readers looking to understand how discrimination against transgender people can affect siblings will no doubt be interested to read this one. Recommended.