Shifting Tides by Caitlin Ricci and A M Burns: 5/10 Stars




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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Overall Rating: 5/10 stars

Matt’s Review: 3/5 Stars

I liked this book okay, but I didn’t super love it.

On the surface, it’s a sweet, simple story about a trans boy, Adam, realising who he is and coming out to his family, and fumbling his way through his first relationship. There’s no huge twists, there’s no massive surprises, it is what it is. And for the most part, it’s done very nicely, very innocently, very sweetly, but without pretending that everything is covered in rainbows and glitter for trans kids. It was even written with a young, immature kind of voice, that really conveyed that these were kids we were watching go through this, rather than ‘kids’ but in reality an-adult’s-imagination-of-a-kid as is too often the case in YA.

But my major hang-up with the book was this: no freaking way were these kids at the fifteen/sixteen age range. Frankly none of them came off this way, but Adam especially was implausibly naïve for his supposed age. Until it did go wrong, he never entertained the thought that coming out as a boy might go wrong at all—and…no. No! Even if it goes super right, the fear is going to be there. Pretty much unless one of your parents or siblings is also trans, you do not know if your family will be supportive, no matter what else hints they should be. Support for trans people is completely unpredictable—my former Catholic father is fine with it, but a lesbian friend called me a sex traitor and cut me out of her life forever. So for Adam to be so blasé just came off as more than a bit ridiculous.

The realisation was also way too simplistic, but again maybe if Adam were younger it would have been better handled. He basically goes ‘I don’t like pink and doing my nails, so I must be a boy.’ I know of people who did this as little kids and it did turn into a more in-depth, long-term realisation, with effectively the ‘ew, pink’ acting as a trigger to their realisation, but for that to be all? That was pretty weird. And usually I hate it when people go ‘oh, you’re not trans, you’re just a tomboy’ but hell, even I would be saying that to this kid!

I read most of the book imagining them to be eleven or twelve, and that worked better, so maybe that would have been the solution. Dock a few years off their age, and things became a lot more plausible and understandable—the obsession with the gender binary, because younger kids would be less likely to have that fluid understanding especially in a clearly quite conservative environment; the naivety about coming out and his family’s support or lack thereof; the lack of mean teen environment which we all found somewhere at sixteen, right? If they were younger, I feel it would have worked and bumped this up a star.

I wouldn’t say this is one to avoid, but I also wouldn’t say it grabbed me, and you won’t really learn anything from it either. It’s okay, but…honestly, out of all the books we’ve read here, I wouldn’t pick this one out for anyone.


Maria’s Review: 2/5 Stars

The best word for me to use here is: Okay – ish.

The writing here was solid, I could get into the story well enough, but it didn’t touch my heart the way I hoped. Parts felt a bit awkward and clumsy, especially in the first chapters when some words were repeated excessively within one paragraph. It did get a bit better over time though.

I liked both MCs, Adam and Blaine, especially in the hurt/comfort scenes. Since I’m an absolute sucker for that trope and they were both really lovely during those scenes. And to me the pan rep was done really well. Might have been a bit clumsy/wordy at times, but it still felt good to me. Part of that might have been my own, selfish joy over it not being in any way, form or fashion compared to bisexuality. That was really nice to see and made me happy. But overall, the rep really did feel good to me. But I don’t identify as pan, so I might be off there.

What got to me in a negative way though was the extreme focus on the binary and ‘traditional’ gender roles. I do understand that teenagers – and so many cis adults – focus very much on it and uphold it in all it’s fucked up glory. I do know that. But I’ve never been good with it. Things like “You’re a boy now, you shouldn’t do this anymore.”, “This is girly stuff.”, “Only girls do this/ Only boys do that.” make me so incredibly uncomfortable. Always have. And I can’t enjoy stories where this gets hammered home over and over and over again. It grates on me like sand in my walking shoes. And I’m not saying it’s wrong or awful to discuss this in books. I’m not even here to discuss the binary in general. But the thing for me here was, nobody did discuss any of it! Nobody contradicted any of the statements, nobody thought outside the binary AT ALL. To a point where the grandmother was worried Blaine wouldn’t want her old, bright green back pack because it might not be ‘masculine’ enough for him. And absolutely everything being categorized into “girl things” and “boy things”. I just… I don’t deal with this kind of thing well. At all. And since nobody ever really challenged or disagreed with this view of things, we kept rolling around in this mess that made me uncomfortable and also angry over and over again.

I did like the other topics touched upon here. Friendship, what really makes and breaks a family, first love – those actually my thing in books. And the story itself was okay – ish, but the rest just… got drowned out by my constant feeling of discomfort. I don’t want to one-star this because I don’t think it’s a bad book in and on itself, but it was not a good read for me personally. So two stars with a bit of a weird taste left behind in my mouth.

One thought on “Shifting Tides by Caitlin Ricci and A M Burns: 5/10 Stars

  1. What’s this weird thing I read in m/m fiction about strict girl/boy things in little kids? I’m 50. When I was a kid I played with both trucks and cars and dolls. I never wore pink. I never wore dresses except as school uniform. Neither my sister nor myself ever had “pink’ girly things, or had our activities defined as “girl stuff” or “boy stuff”. I am totally cis. So is my sister. I wouldn’t say either of us were “tomboys”. And I never came across this whole “girl stuff”/”boy stuff” until going into the workforce.


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