Print Review: “Choir Boy”

Choir Boy

Choir Boy
By Charlie Anders
SoftSkull.com
308 pages, hard bound

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you’d do nearly anything in order to achieve it? What if you barely understood the implications of the “nearly anything” that you were willing to do – but they would change your very identity? What if it would also change your sex? This is the situation 13-year-old Berry Sanchez finds himself in as he searches for a way to avoid the fate of others whose voices have changed, thus removing them from the St. Luke’s Episcopal Cathedral boys’ choir. In order to preserve his sweet soprano voice, Berry first tries to slice open his testicles and then, thanks to the help of a sympathetic transsexual he meets at his shrink’s office, begins taking female hormones – with surreal and unexpected results.

Author, Charlie Anders once identified as a choir boy but has come to identify and be identified as a male-to-female transgendered writer with a quirky, sassy, tomgirl-ish fashion sense and effervescent personality. As with her previously published non-fiction book, The Lazy Crossdresser, this first novel is filled with good humor and subtle social insights. Anders weaves an enchanting mixture of wholesomeness; gritty, angst filled teen reality; and selfless yet narcissistic fairy tale romance into a hip, captivating, and thought-provoking written tapestry. Her ability to craft concise and believable dialogue is exceptional and her short, punchy sentences keep the pace moving at a breezy, youthful pace. If there is a fault to be found in Choir Boy, it is that Anders seems strangely enamored of pithy, ultra-hip comments that, like a beautiful porn star repeatedly looking into the camera, seem more acutely self-aware than absolutely necessary. But this is a minor criticism, given the book’s nuanced depth and easy reading quality.

In addition to providing a good old-fashioned downright absorbing read, Anders has crafted an important message about unintentional gender transformations that will touch even the most sexually vanilla. One doesn’t need to be transgendered in order to fall in love with the single-mindedly aesthetic Berry Sanchez. All one needs to be is a human being who has felt out of place, awkward, or otherwise Other.

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