Blacker, Terence. Boy 2 Girl. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2005. ISBN 978-0374309268. 304 pp.
After the death of his mother, Sam moves to London to reside with his aunt and her family. His cousin Matthew is reluctant to include charmingly abrasive Sam in his social circle after a few awkward situations. They gang decides that Sam must prove his friendship to the “Sheds” before he can join their clique. The hazing: dress like a girl for a week at school. Sam, slight with longish hair, assumes the persona of Samantha with more ease than they are all comfortable with; he manages to soften his male friends and empower his girl friends in one fell swoop. A tough boy with a lot of baggage, the unruly Sam finds that passing as a girl allows him to express his bottled up feelings on a variety of subjects.
The plot complicates when the hunkiest guy in school falls for Sam, and so does a cute musical girl in his grade. No one dreamed that the crossdressing would come in useful when Sam’s dad, newly released from jail, comes to London seeking his son–and his son’s inheritance. The amusing premise has an unexpected depth, and the humor is balanced out with serious issues of honesty, depth, family and gender.
Kudos to Blacker for a unique tale and memorable characters. The story, told from multiple points of view, creates a complete portrait of Sam, whose voice we hear only through the mouths of the other characters. The foreign setting shouldn’t create problems for the average American reader; short chapters make the pages fly by, but it takes a little while to get into the swing of the pace and the voices of all the characters, which tend to blend together. The ex-con path the plot takes is not wholly believable, but enjoyable nevertheless.