IDEN­TIFY

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight - SU­SAN WAG­GONER

Lesley Choyce, Orca Book Pub­lish­ers Soft­cover $9.95 (120pp), 978-1-4598-1406-6 Choyce’s re­fusal to pi­geon­hole her char­ac­ters makes them into peo­ple most read­ers will eas­ily care about.

Two teen out­siders be­come un­likely friends and, ul­ti­mately, al­lies, in Lesley Choyce’s well-writ­ten and com­pul­sively read­able Iden­tity.

A year ago, Gabriella had long hair and dressed like the other girls. Now she’s cut her hair short, wears jeans and flan­nel shirts, and wants to be called Gabe. When she finds Ethan hid­ing from class bul­lies be­tween two over­flow­ing dump­sters, she pulls him out and takes him to her fa­vorite place of refuge: an old grave­yard. Her ex­pla­na­tion: “It’s full of peo­ple, but not one of them will give you shit.”

Ethan has prob­lems of his own. Quar­rel­ing par­ents and a dad who drinks too much have him es­cap­ing into black-mar­ket meds. At first, Gabe seems al­most too pulled to­gether to be true—cool, sar­donic, im­per­vi­ous to com­ments on her new look. By con­trast, Ethan is hy­per­sen­si­tive to jeer­ing and over­whelmed by a sense of in­ad­e­quacy. But when Gabe’s well-mean­ing par­ents co­erce her into see­ing a coun­selor who brings up the pos­si­bil­ity of gen­der re­as­sign­ment, the hair­line cracks in Gabe’s cool façade widen into crevices. In want­ing to help his new­found friend, Ethan finds he’s stronger than he thinks, and the two be­come al­lies in try­ing to thwart those who tor­ment them.

Ethan’s re­al­iza­tion that he can’t help Gabe if he’s in a drug-in­duced haze proves a rea­son to sober up.

While both teens make progress in the story, they still have grow­ing to do, and this helps make the book un­com­monly pow­er­ful. Choyce’s re­fusal to pi­geon­hole her char­ac­ters makes them into peo­ple most read­ers will eas­ily care about.

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