Blacker’s eye for an unusual storyline has produced an ambitious and successful take on the question of sexual identity and gender stereotyping among teenagers. Sam Lopez’s mother is killed in a car crash, his father abandoned the family years ago and it is left to his aunt to bring him from his American home to her family in England. He is swiftly recruited by his cousin to settle an old score with the girls in his class by dressing as one of them, learning all their secrets and then revealing his true identity. However, things do not go exactly to plan and the story takes a walk around the issues of friendship and rivalry, as well as those of sexuality and stereotyping.
This is a book for older readers – Year 8 and above – not just because of its content but also because of its sometimes confusing format. There is a hard core of a dozen protagonists and until the reader is far enough into the story to be aware of each character’s distinctive voice the narrative can feel cluttered and overwhelming. However, this minor blemish aside, Blacker has created a thoughtful and entertaining read in which teenage voices are skilfully realised and teachers and parents are excrutiating enough to dodge the caricature trap and squirmingly convince.
Throughout, there is no concession to the formulaic or the trite and this is a novel which deserves to be read and discussed widely across a broader subject band than English – there is ample material here for the innovative PSHE teacher, too.