A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde: 7/10 Stars

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On the search for a cup of coffee before the guest lecture he’s giving, Tom spies a tired, half-frozen young man who looks even more need of coffee than him. On impulse, he buys the man a cup—but an attempt to strike up conversation ends in the young man walking off, seemingly put off by Tom Walford—the tabloids’ favourite billionaire—buying him coffee. But when he reappears in Tom’s lecture, all Tom knows is that he doesn’t want the man slipping away a second time.

Agreeing to dinner with a man he only knows from internet gossip columns isn’t the wisest decision Cin’s ever made, but he wants to like the infamous Tom Walford and he can’t do that if he doesn’t give the man a fair chance to be likeable. Which he is, almost frustratingly so, to the point Cin wishes maybe he hadn’t been so fair because he never had any intention of getting attached to Tom, who seems to come from a world far too different from his own for anything between them to last. Little does Cin know, they’ve got a lot more in common than he imagines—including their shared discomfort with their assigned genders, and all the complications that go with it.

 

 

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Overall Rating: 5/10 stars

Matt’s Review: 2/5 Stars

My first question is, how do you eat soup with a fork? Or chopsticks, for that matter? Which is pretty much the only lasting thing this book left me with.

It’s not bad. I wouldn’t say there’s anything inherently bad about this book. But…it’s boring.

Firstly, it didn’t seem to know what it was. The first 65% is a romance between a college student and a billionaire. It’s not my thing, but it was a solid plot. And then after that point, it turns into this series of rushed, how-transition-works-for-men 101 stuff with no sense of time whatsoever. We jump over fourteen months in the last 35%, rushing through loads of medical transition. (Not all of which was exactly well-done or realistic, either. A lot of those medical ‘facts’ had me rolling my eyes. Hard.) And there’s really no point to it. It doesn’t add to the story, and in fact detracted from it because so much of that medical transition came off as wish-fulfillment. Total legal and medical transition in fourteen months? Even with a billionaire’s credit card at your disposal, you wish. And then we had the turning up of parents and random added backstory that we didn’t need, at the 81% mark. I still don’t know why that bit happened. So what did this book want to be? A romance, or a docudrama about FTM transition?

I don’t know, maybe that stuff is great for really, really new cis allies, or super baby trans folks, but honestly? As a trans guy, it was really not doing it for me.

Tom was a kind of weird character as well. No way was he forty, for one. And no way, with his rather excellent command of clitoral stimulation, did he need the extremely awkward and random vaginal sex education lesson that Cin decided to give. (Seriously, it involved defining the outer labia…) I never worked out why a software engineer had paparazzi following him around everywhere and a huge deal made out of his personal life—I’m not exactly wading through huge pieces on Mark Zuckerberg’s wife in the tabloids, and trust me, British tabloids will chat shit about anyone you may even possibly have heard of. The whole set-up of this character was weird.

He was also pretty enormously inconsistent with his transgender knowledge. One minute he’s super close to his sister and knows she’s a big name in trans rights—which is a pretty niche area, big names in trans rights are almost always not well-known outside of queer circles—and the next he’s never heard of genderqueer and the concept of dysphoria isn’t one he’s familiar with. I don’t know, maybe this is just me, but it really didn’t wash for me. Maybe the genderqueer thing, given his (alleged) age, but dysphoria? Really?

There were two super interesting things that popped out at me, and I was really disappointed we didn’t get to see them explored. One, Tom’s issues with his dick. That was really interesting. He wasn’t a trans woman and didn’t have those thoughts of being female, but he did have issues with having a penis. That was really interesting, and I wanted that to be the focus in that last 35%, not very well-trodden paths on how FTM medical transition works. The other was there’s one page, one, where Tom is thinking about his sexual attraction to people, and it screamed demisexual to me. But it’s never said, and never brought up again. Is this guy demi? I don’t know, maybe. I know I want to know.

Everyone talks about this work like it’s a huge defining book for trans literature, but I really don’t see it. I see a not especially well-written, boring story that’s half college romance and half a trans documentary. And not that great at being either.

So…I don’t know. Read other reviews. I think I’m in the definite minority here, so don’t just take my word on it, but I really don’t think this book is what it’s cracked up to be.

Maria’s Review: 5/5 Stars

This book was not written for us cis peeps. Which is why I highly recommend it to everyone who asks me for a book recommendation. It’s not written for the cis gaze, it’s not focused on cis feelings, there is no cis love interest or the loathed “cis stamp of approval”. Not from the MCs, not from side characters, not from anyone. It was *lovely *.

It is a beautiful m/nb romance and I loved it. I read in another review that someone called parts of the story “Gender 101”. I tend to agree, and it did not take away from my enjoyment of the overall story – not one little bit. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, and especially the unpredictable time jumps. Some of them were really unexpected and did not send me to the places I thought they would. But somehow it still all worked beautifully for me. Yes, the prose did get a tiny bit awkward at times, but it still gave me this massive bout of joy and happiness. Which is saying something since I’m not exactly a huge fan of the fairytale/billionaire trope. May/December on the other hand? Is a lot more my ballgame.

And I loved Cin. His art, his grumpiness and his idealism that – even though I might not agree with him on everything – still honestly reminded me of my own university days. I do have to admit that Tom read younger to me though. At times I completely forgot he was supposed to be 40, and therefore significantly older than Cin. Part of it was his own journey of self-discovery, but… also more than that. I tried to read some of it as part of his life being full of work, work, work and nothing else before he met Cin. But even then, I didn’t really feel the May/December aspect.

All of that kind of became background noise though. For me, especially the talks and discussions concerning consent, personal boundaries and limits were amazing. For Reasons, this was especially heartwarming and lovely to me. And it felt like such a soothing, comforting and vital part of the relationship between the MCs, I couldn’t help but love it.

The one niggle I might have is the lack of conflict in this book. I was not particularly bothered by it, I still enjoyed it and finished it with a big smile on my face. But I can imagine people wanting and /or needing a bit more real, honest conflict in this. Because there really wasn’t a lot.

All in all, I’d definitely recommend this to everyone. It’s a lovely, well-written queer romance, far away from everything cisnormative and it just… made me happy.

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