Saturday, September 3, 2016

Shifting Tides by Caitlin Ricci & A.M. Burns

Angela always knew there was something different about herself. When she realizes she’s really Adam, his whole life changes in ways he never expected.

Adam comes out to his family during a vacation to Assateague Island. While he’s trying to explain to his parents that he’s not Angela anymore, they leave him there with the rest of his family. His aunt and uncle take him in to live with them and his cousin, Seth.

Over the course of that summer, he also begins a relationship with his cousin’s best friend, Blaine, a boy he’s had a crush on for years. With the support of his extended family and Blaine, Adam embarks on the drastic changes he must undergo to be the person he always felt he was inside.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

3 Stars overall
3-4 Stars for the young adult reader
2 Stars for the adult reader.

With this tough subject matter, a reader is torn between rating the subject matter or the story itself and the way it was written. I have to be honest about my feelings and thoughts, and express my opinion. It's my duty to my followers not to hand out 5 stars just because an author chooses transgender as a platform in their storytelling.

I believe using fiction to comfort and educate our youth is an admirable thing, and was hoping for an exploration into the depths of emotion a FtM transgender youth goes through on their journey.

If a child is going through a major change and struggling, only to read a character going through the same thing, they can say to themselves, "They got through it, and so can I."

That's not what I felt I received – instead, it was a syrupy romance.

If there was one word I'd use to describe Shifting Tides, it would be shallow, and I mean this by the very definition of the word. When dealing with difficult subject matter, there is a gray area, or sweet spot, that is nearly impossible to achieve. Either it's on one end, where the author ends up sounding preachy, with too much information, or it's too light, making a mockery of the issue.

At the start of Shifting Tides, I could relate. When I was growing up, all through my teenage years, I only wanted to wear jeans, a hoodie, and flip-flops, while pulling my hair out of my face. My sister and mother loved to shop, loved girly things. I couldn't relate to them, so I could relate to Angela. The opening scene felt straight out of my past, to a certain extent. Even today, knowing it's a necessary evil, I do not enjoy a pedicure.

Those were the only reasons showing why Angela decided to become Adam.

Am I transgender? No.

Are men who enjoy manicures and the color pink trans? No.

In the past, I've been told I have a 'male' signature to my mind and emotions, and that is at the core of my issues with Shifting Tides. No, my mind is neither male nor female, it is only me. I think like 'me'.

I thought we were past gender stereotypes.

I also need to point out, one of the characters is pansexual, with a better understanding of it than I have, when he is 15 to my 38. It wasn't until a year or so ago that I made the decision to label myself as pansexual, after struggling with the label bi, not feeling as if it 'fit'. My decision was after a lifetime of experience, while Blaine's was just added in without emotion, as if it solved the issue of Blaine being in a relationship with a FtM transgender.

Angela, not enjoying how her mother uses her as a dress-up doll and girly companion, watches a video in sex-ed about transgender, and immediately jumps to that she is actually a guy because she wants to wear jeans and her feet are ticklish during a pedicure. While what I've written above makes it sound as if I'm lessening the major impact this has on a person, but that is not what I'm doing. I felt the book made light, levity, of such a major impact on a human's identity.

Angela chooses the name Adam, and then decides she is now a he, without any true depth or emotion. Shallow. Instead of a sense of empowerment, Angela/Adam is now worried about shopping, buying clothing, and preening, exactly what she was complaining about with her/his mother earlier in the book.

"How do guys dress?" "How do they walk and talk?" "I'll have to learn to talk like a guy – walk like a guy." "I'll have to learn to stand up to pee." "Maybe I'll take up soccer." "Learn to dress like a guy."

NO! You don't have to learn anything, Angela/Adam. You have to be YOU. That's the point. You be YOU!

Angela's mother had her wearing a girly mask, while Adam chose to wear a masculine mask, but neither truly expressed who the soul represented.

I must be a gay guy! Adam said a few times over the course of the book.

What was missing was an existential crisis as Angela transitioned into Adam. Obviously the first steps are the name and clothing for the outside appearance, as a comfort to finally be who you truly are (not put on another mask you believe is required of you to be a 'boy'). But within a week or so, Adam already knew he was getting sexual reassignment surgery, as if that wasn't a major decision to be discussed with other post-surgery FtM, doctors, family and friends, a therapist – as if all transgenders alter their bodies. Some education for both the reader and Angela/Adam would have added some depth. How not all transgender choose surgery, but see their bodies as an extension of themselves and not a part of their gender. How sexual reassignment is costly, requires long recovery rates and many surgeries, and removes all chance of having children. Hormone therapy would be the next logical step, after talking with a doctor. But Adam was speaking as if it was a quick 'fix' to go from female to male sexually.

I won't go into detail about the lack of support from the parents, as the book has not one, but TWO, sets of parents abandoning their children. Yes, this is a sad reality for LGBTQ youth, but two was overkill as it lessened the emotional impact.

I do need to note the last conversation between the aunt and the mother, as I felt it highly inappropriate in a young adult novel. As a woman, seeing a woman call another woman the 'c' word, while her daughter/son overhears, that's unforgivable, no matter the context.

The following is said by Angela/Adam's aunt – his advocate.

If you want a real daughter, then go ask your preacher to put one into your shriveled-up cunt, and hope that it wasn't your genes that made the mistake in making Adam a girl in the first place.

That passage made me sick on many levels. Women-shaming, as if the state of her vagina is a reflection of her person. Religion-shaming 'your preacher'. Women-shaming, as if a parent is to blame for having a transgender child, which also highlights how the aunt believes Angela/Adam is abnormal. Nothing is wrong with Adam. Angela's mother did nothing wrong, her genes weren't tainted to create Angela into Adam. Ageism with the shriveled-up c-word.

This is not standing up for Adam – Adam is already struggling with the fact that he has female sex parts – he doesn't need to feel shame about that fact, like the rest of the women being shamed, while hearing his aunt and advocate trash both of his parents. Bringing genetics into it, when the aunt trashed the parents, Adam would feel shame on a cellular level, as he is his parents' child.

I won't comment on the romance in the book, as I felt the transgender issue should have been the focus of the story. But I will say, young adults will probably swoon for the romance, especially with Blaine as the perfect boyfriend without flaws.

What I wanted in the novel, I will deliver to those reading my review instead.

You be you! There is no such thing as society's opinion on your state of being. You are you, and that's all you can be if you want to be happy.

Young adult age-range: 13+ due to kissing and profanity. The 'C' word.

Sadly, a 2-star review from me.
When I read the blurb for this book, I thought “great this is something different and it's a great topic to shed some light on.”
Sadly, this book did not hit the mark for me.

Angela/Adam's transformation was far too sudden and made light of. “ I don't like pink and girly things so I am a boy.”

I felt Blaine was far too old for his years, at his age.
I just felt it was all a little too unbelievable.
This could have been a fantastic book shedding light on Transgender, but for me it really missed the mark.

Caitlin Ricci

Caitlin was fortunate growing up to be surrounded by family and teachers that encouraged her love of reading. She has always been a voracious reader and that love of the written word easily morphed into a passion for writing. If she isn’t writing, she can usually be found studying as she works toward her counseling degree. She comes from a military family and the men and women of the armed forces are close to her heart.

She also enjoys gardening and horseback riding in the Colorado Rockies where she calls home with her wonderful fiance, their dog and Blue Tongue Skink. Her belief that there is no one true path to happily ever after runs deeply through all of her stories.

Caitlin Ricci loves to hear from readers.

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A.M. Burns

A.M. Burns lives in the Colorado Rockies with his partner, several dogs, cats, horses, and birds. When he’s not writing, he’s often fixing fences, splitting wood, hiking in the mountains, or flying his hawks. He’s enjoyed writing since he was in high school, but it wasn’t until the past few years that’s he’s begun truly honing his craft. He is the president of the Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group. Having lived both in Colorado and Texas, rugged frontier types and independent attitudes often show up in his work.

Connect with A.M.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Shifting Tides by Caitlin Ricci & A.M. Burns to read and review.

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