Note: An advanced reader copy (ARC) was provided by Riptide Publishing.
“You drive me crazy! First you're obsessed with Layla and now you're all over me? Are you straight, or gay, or bi, or what?”
“I like you. That's what I am.”
“That's not...a thing!”
“I'm saying it is! I like you! Why can't you be happy about that? Why are you so sure that I can't?”
I swear, 2018 is turning out to be a standout year for me in terms of reading fabulously amazing young (YA) literature! With Cinderella Boy, I not only find myself absolutely smitten by an intelligent, insightful, and inspiring story but have also stumbled upon a new-to-me author who holds promise if based on this work of one Kristina Meister alone. This was a coming-of-age story for more than the gender-fluid sixteen-year-old main character; and with nearly every character that this reader was introduced to, emotions were evoked and firm thoughts abound.
At sixteen, Declan Elliott still has quite a few things in his life to figure out. The one thing he IS sure of, however, is how he feels wearing his older sister Delia's clothes. When she catches him donning one of her outfits, Dex is shocked when she offers to help him transform from her nerdy, quiet brother to their lovely "cousin" from Chicago, Layla. Another thing that surprises Dex? The fact that he's gained the attention and subsequent affection of seventeen-year-old Cater Aadenson--incoming student body president, most popular guy in school, and Delia's ex.
Okay, I'm going to officially end my own take on the blurb at where I left it. I don't want to go into too much detail for fear that I'll end up giving something away. This book truly is one that's need to be experienced as you flip from one page to the next and as you go on the journey of self-discovery that the characters, especially Dex and Carter, are on. Here are the things that I think do need to be kept in mind: Carter knows Declan but on a younger-brother-to-my-then-girlfriend-now-best-friend sort of way, and Dex is an incoming transferee and identifies as gender-fluid.
If I had to choose one thing I loved most about this book it would be...well, everything! From the main characters to the supporting cast, there were people who I adored and those I seriously wanted to smack upside the head. Both Carter and Dex were smart with their own brand of sass, but they were also a wee bit lost in their own ways. They had personas that they showed the world, but not as easily as one may think. The fear and apprehension--the pressure from adults, their peers, and society in general--was a very real thing and something many can recognize.
The author did a wonderful job crafting a story that encourages her readers to actually sit up and take notice of what's happening on the page. Kristina Meister doesn't offer up your typical YA romance. This novel of hers truly is the poster child for the label "coming of age"; yet somehow, that doesn't even feel sufficient. Simply put, Cinderella Boy is about embracing the person that you are, fighting for acceptance because mere tolerance no longer cuts it, and believing that the truest version of you is worthy of love. This 2018 favorite gets five-plus stars. ♥
Date Read: 04 July 2018
Learn more about Kristina Meister.