John Bird is your typical suburban American kid in many ways, and yet secretly, he knows he isn’t. His dad tries to beat it out of him with sports, and his words cut almost as sharply as the taunts his schoolyard bullies chant at him every day: “ladybird.” Everyone knows John is different, but nobody knows why, exactly. It’s only when newfound kindred spirit Aureus enters John’s life does he start to understand “himself” in My Ladybird Story: The growing pains of a Transgender by Magus Tor.
The author has a wide variety of other titles available, mostly romance and fantasy, that reassure me that they have a great deal of flexibility with their writing, though sadly this particular title seems out of their usual element. My problems with the book start no sooner than its Amazon subtitle: “The growing pains of a Transgender.” I had my doubts about the book the second I read this, for two reasons: firstly, to refer to any person as “a Transgender” and nothing else is obviously dehumanizing, and secondly it gives the impression the author does not have the knowledge of this sensitive subject.
The book sadly reinforces these suspicions, continuing to make the kind of faux-pas you wouldn’t expect anyone with enough experience of the subject to make, such as referring to the story’s protagonist in the wrong gender throughout the entirety. It’s like nails on a chalkboard for the genre of LGBT fiction that it places itself proudly in, and honestly unforgivable for a title so set-up to deliver what is supposed to be an inside perspective on what it is to be a transgender youth.
At its basic level this is more than likely a failure on the part of editing, as these problematic elements were never picked up and corrected; on a deeper level, there’s not much to differentiate this book from its predecessors, at times feeling like it was once about a young homosexual romance before a switch-out to a transgender protagonist sometime into the writing process. John himself is a flat character, leaving the fairly two-dimensional remainder of the cast with little to prop themselves up against, constantly pitting John against every common misery without much variation. The writing hovers at a steady pace with a few moments that have an outstanding spark to them.
While I really tried to give the book its due during my read, I found the book’s flaws left holes in my ability to enjoy it. I admire the confidence of Tor in approaching the subject so unwaveringly to try to deliver what could have been a very powerful and timely book. Instead, the final piece lacks depth, and I hope this is merely due to the way the book is written rather than a critical lack of education on this subject. If you’re looking for a basic story of young love, friendship, and identity focusing on the subject of what it is to be transgender, this is a story of hope at its core.
Given this really seems entirely different and off-key compared to some of the most polished and bestselling works under the name I hope to see something back on track for the next book. It does have its moments nonetheless, and the intention of the material and its positive outlook for LGBT issues should be applauded.