Title: Golden Boy
Author: Abigail Tarttelin
Publication date: 2013
Date started: 11/12/2018
Date finished: 19/12/2018
First sentence: “My brother gets all As at school, and is generally always nice to everybody.”
Last sentence: “‘I know it’s weird’. Sylvie leans her head on my shoulder. ‘No, it’s not.’”
Favorite sentence: “Sometimes I still feel that there are two of me: one clean, flawless picture, the other imperfect and cracked; one boy, one girl; one voice that speaks aloud and one that whispers in my ear; one publicly known to have been troubled but be on the mend, the other who has privately lost something to do with innocence and gained something to do with knowledge and adulthood that can never be undone. I feel sometimes there are things that tear me in two directions, that there are two sets of thoughts that grow side by side. But then I realize that I am whole, whatever that means and does not mean; I am complete without the need for additions or alteration.”
Content warnings: hard cw on rape (lengthy description), transphobia, homophobia.
Summary (spoilers): Max Walker is an intersex teenager and a poster child: perfect student, great at sports, popular with girls and a great personality. He never speaks about his condition with his family, and only thinks about it himself when related to his friends discovering their sexuality and how he feels this will never be possible for him. He lives a perfect life, until his childhood best friend Hunter confesses his feelings to him before raping him… Max goes to the clinic on the following day because his vagina was torn, and he also takes contraceptive pills because he doesn’t know if he is fertile or not. But Max gets sick, throws up the pills, and soon finds out that he is pregnant… He doesn’t want his parents to know about the rape, but he has to tell them about the pregnancy. His mother becomes even more controlling than before, asking who it was, asking why he didn’t tell her he was gay, pushing for a sex reassignment surgery in Max’s father back… it’s all very awful, but Max says nothing. In the middle of his life being wrecked Max finds a girlfriend, Sylvie, in whom he confides everything – only her and his Doctor know. When Max is about to have the abortion he wants to stop it and tells his mother so, but she decides to ignore him and to go ahead with the surgery. Max goes crazy about his body being violated for the second time when he wakes up from the surgery, and when his father learns about the situation he breaks up with Max’s mother and she has to move out. Max’s little brother, who knows nothing of the whole situation, is very confused by all of this. One day, Max’s mother meets his Doctor in town and when she laments about Max still not admitting that he’s bi the doctor can’t take it anymore and assures her that he’s straight. The mother suddenly realizes that it was a rape, and goes to ask Max who gets paralyzed and cannot say anything, but Sylvie points them to Hunter. He is arrested right away for rape on a minor. Max tells his brother everything, decides that it’s ok if he’s not a boy or a girl and that he won’t have surgery, and mourns his unborn baby with the help of Sylvie and his father.
Opinion: This was a very heavy book. I wasn’t prepared for the rape scene, which took forever and was painfully detailed, and which almost made me sick. Later, the mother’s controlling behavior and the fact that she kept ignoring her child in decisions concerning his body drove me absolutely mad. In general, all the scenes where adults were trying to take decisions for Max angered me, and I had to put the book down to breathe a few times. But despite those very negative emotions, I loved the book. I loved how Max’s struggle about his gender identity was depicted, and how about ultimately it was a celebration of his non-binarity. I loved how, despite him being paralyzed by fear and controlled by others most of the time, he still managed to ask himself so many important questions. I love how after all these awful things happening to him he got a happy ending.