All Kinds of Other by James Sie Book Review
Title: All Kinds of Other
Author: James Sie
Genre: YA Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Description: In this tender, nuanced coming-of-age love story, two boys—one who is cis and one who is trans—have been guarding their hearts to protect themselves, until their feelings for each other give them a reason to stand up to their fears.
Two boys are starting at a new school.
Jules is just figuring out what it means to be gay and hasn’t totally decided whether he wants to be out at his new school. His parents and friends have all kinds of opinions, but for his part, Jules just wants to make the basketball team and keep his head down.
Jack is trying to start over after a best friend break-up. He followed his actor father clear across the country to LA, but he’s also totally ready to leave his past behind. Maybe this new school where no one knows him is exactly what he needs.
When the two boys meet, the sparks are undeniable. But then a video surfaces linking Jack to a pair of popular transgender vloggers, and the revelations about Jack’s past thrust both Jack and Jules into the spotlight they’ve been trying to avoid. Suddenly both boys have a choice to make—between lying low where it’s easier or following their hearts.
POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD
Trigger Warnings: Homophobia, Transphobia, Bullying, Outing, Violence
I received a physical copy All Kinds of Other by James Sie from an imprint of Harper Collins, but all opinions are my own. The book follows Jules and Jack as they navigate a new school while struggling with their own identities. It has alternating POV's from the two that give you a glimpse into what each is going through, Jules as a gay man and Jack as a gay trans-man.
In the book, James Sie shines in their writing of the mindset of YA characters without it reading as dated. It never comes across as an author out of touch with the characters and settings. They have mastered the forced, casual indifference of teenagers. The characters' perspectives are instinctually relatable, no matter what age you are. They confront the toxic culture of kids trying so hard to fit into a preconceived box and in the process sacrificing themselves. This is a universal truth for any teenager, and I think even adults and others can relate.
There's a childish simplicity to the way things are stated - however that doesn't negate how profound they can be. The book portrays a naive innocence to the anxiety of the youthful journey that comes with discovering sexuality and gender identity. It adds to the wide-eyed viewpoint that arrives from immersing yourself in the main characters' universes. There's nothing eloquent about some of the writing or dialogue, but in the absence of it there are meaningful truths that ring through the reader.
James Sie expertly blends the intersections of a person's identity and how it contributes to who they are. They confront harmful stereotypes and challenge what they mean for a person whose identity people assume to know based on certain behaviors. I think the book takes the micro-aggressions and flippant comments faced by LGBTQ+ kids every day and shows how that pain builds over time into a crescendo.
Amidst the typo-ridden confessional blog posts dotting the book, there is such strong emotion that is almost too overwhelming to capture with any words. The author was uniquely able to demonstrate communication in the modern age without it coming across as cringe. The tentative romance errs on the side of caution at first through hesitant text messages and short conversations. They write the evolution of a relationship in today's society as the most natural thing in the world
I can often forget how freeing it can feel to read YA contemporary until I inevitably pick one up again. This is not to say the genre is less important or somehow easier to read, but rather it stems from experiences we all share. The book possesses that kind of undeniable fun that comes directly from the author's writing style. It's the kind of book that has you breaking into a smile in public that will earn you strange stares yet you can't be bothered to care.
I definitely recommend a reader keep a close eye on the trigger warnings I listed above before starting the book. There are rampant examples of homophobia and transphobia that I don't want to pretend aren't there. The book is cute and fun at times but also addresses triggering topics pretty frequently without beating around the bush. If these are topics you find triggering you may want to keep them in mind.
All Kinds of Other by James Sie has the makings of any great ya contemporary novel with a fresh and diverse take on the genre. It moves the reader unlike any other and provides a connection to the characters, whether you have experienced what they do or not. I can say with certainty that this is a book that managed to win over my heart in the short time I was engrossed in its pages. I have full confidence others will experience the same when picking it up.
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