The Other Me, Suzanne van Rooyen
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Genre: YA, LGBT (T)
Length: 216 pages
“I’d hoped Y2K would bring about the apocalypse, but here we are limping into the twenty-first century.”
The Other Me features a 16 year old girl, Treasa, who is different from the others at her all girls high school. Different in the sense that she looks different (Irish heritage amongst the backdrop of South Africa), thinks differently than the other girls about almost every facet of life and can’t shrug off the feeling that she is a bona fide science fiction alien.
Treasa hides this from everyone, relegating these thoughts to her personal ramblings on her computer and the ever listening ears of her cat. Through chance meeting during choir practice, Treasa meets Gabriel, a boy from the local public high school. To Treasa, Gabriel seems perfect; he can play piano beautifully, looks absolutely stunning (in her eyes of course, not my personal cup of tea) and walks around with an air of mature confidence.
Gabriel is actually something of a mixed bag. Yes he has the things going for him that Treasa spotted, but underneath this exterior he is finding life incredibly tough, and he hides many dark secrets that no one bar himself has any knowledge of. To top it all off his father is an alcoholic who doesn’t hold back with his aggression when he is drunk; quite often Gabriel goes to school sporting a new bruise.
With Treasa having fallen for her ‘dream guy’ she thinks her life is finally getting onto the ‘normal’ track. But, instead, this meeting and budding relationship sparks lingering feelings within both, turning their life’s into their personal versions of hell.
Good Transgender Story
It takes a bit for me to read transgender novels as it just does not fit into my comfortable reading range, and, to be honest, I find them very formulaic in general. Luckily The Other Me is not one of these and it had me gripped from beginning to end. It is an intriguing story that is very deep and goes off in tangents, explaining the backstory of the myriad of characters present on these pages. While this is not always positive (see below for details) this book kept me highly interested and entertained. What else can you ask for from a book?
Unique Local Flavour
Count on a hand how many books in this genre that are set in South Africa. If you’ve gone beyond using one hand then congratulations, you are extremely well read. The point I’m trying to make though is that this setting is relatively uncharted territory when it comes to LGBT and YA fiction.
The author has masterly weaved the slang, environment and general feel of Johannesburg into this story, making the readers believe they are standing on a street corner and watching this story unfold. For those who may view this as an obstacle, don’t be afraid, the book has a helpful glossary at the beginning that you can peruse over at leisure, learning new, exciting words.
The Not So Good
The Other Me like so many before it falls victim to a common curse, that of too much going on. This book is pretty short (by my standards) with a length of only 216 pages. For a book of this length there are too many story tangents happening, leaving the book mind-boggling when you are trying to decipher the story amongst the local slang in a very short period of time.
I believe this book could’ve been stripped back, retained it’s unique South African flavour (which I immensely enjoyed) and it would have come out as a better story for it. This was enough for me to deduct a star from an otherwise great book. I really enjoyed what the author had to offer and I do hope that in future work (which I will read) a better middle-ground between content and length is found.
The inner workings of a teenagers mind – whether they be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer or any other orientation – are a minefield of emotions and hormones. They will undertake horrible risks, confusion will reign and both they and their parents will be lucky to see the end of these years without at least a few scars. The Other Me captures this brilliantly in Treasa and Gabriel, with each presenting differing views on life, the universe and everything in between. I would strongly recommend this to readers of transgender fiction, or if your feeling brave one evening and want to discover how often the word sosaties can be used by hungry teenage boys.
“A smile spread across my face, and for the first time I feel like me, the real me.”
This book was provided by Harmony Ink in return for an honest review.