by Mikiyo Tsuda
After suffering the latest in a series of dizzy spells, Kei Yoshikawa wakes up in a hospital to shocking news: although his body looks like a boy's, he possesses female chromosomes and is, genetically speaking, a girl. After a brief discussion with his family, Kei decides to embrace the news and begin living life as a girl. He withdraws from school and spends the next six months “training” to be a normal high school girl. When he finally returns the following school year, it's as Megumi, a pretty young freshman. But with Kei's old friends suspicious about the new girl who looks just like him, Megumi will have to be extremely cautious if she wants to preserve her secret past.
Some aspects of the book are extremely contrived. Kei goes to the hospital after fainting and is told immediately upon awaking that he's actually a girl? What sort of medical professional does that? It that doesn't violate some sort of ethics code, it ought to. Kei's acceptance of his status and decision to become a girl is made quickly, with minimal fuss or drama. Given that there's no indication he ever questioned his sexuality before this revelation, his decisive action seems unrealistic. I also doubt that Megumi would have been sent back to the same school she attended as Kei – it's just an invitation for trouble! Finally, there's a scene where a boy tries to force himself on Megumi, and she laments that when she was a boy, she could fight back. Hey, guess what? YOU CAN STILL FIGHT BACK. Girls don't have to just lie on their backs and take it!!!
But Mikiyo Tsuda has a story to tell, and she doesn't waste time setting it up, so just roll your eyes and carry on without thinking too deeply about story complications. In fact, that may just be the best philosophy for this story. While I appreciate the unusual story, and Megumi does have occasional insights into the challenges of girlhood that she was unable to fully understand before her change, the subject treatment is usually pretty shallow. Like all of Kei's friends used to tease him for being cute, so now that Megumi is a girl they immediately propose marriage because they got along with Kei so she's now a perfect partner. Somehow, I doubt that's how the situation would go down in a real life scenario, and a more realistic portrayal would have had some real drama and emotional impact.
Kei/Megumi's change is mostly played for humor, and I have to admit – it's often very funny. So while I'm disappointed that it doesn't go deeper into the difficulties of transitioning, I still enjoy the story for what it is: a light-hearted comedy playing with a wacky scenario.
2.5 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: The Borgias: The Hidden History by G. J. Meyer
2012: The Burgermeister's Daughter by Steven Ozment
2011: The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
2010: The Town That Food Saved by Ben Hewitt
2009: Discussion Question: At what point do you give up on a book?