On this perfect sunny Sunday, it’s the perfect time to talk about Spy Stuff.
It’s not the usual spy story. Not the kind of book Jan Flemming could have written. I could well compare my friend Matthew J. Metzger to another author, but he’s rather exceptionnal and wouldn’t hold any comparison.
He describes himself as an asexual, transgender author, dragged up in the wet and windy British Isles. He currently lives and works in West Yorkshire, and has a special fondness for writing the rough-edged British working class society in which he grew up — warts and all.
What is this book about?
I could try to sum it up for you, but it wouldn’t do the book any justice. Here is the blurb, instead.
Anton never thought anyone would ever want to date him. Everyone knows nobody wants a transgender boyfriend, right? So he’s as shocked as anyone when seemingly-straight Jude Kalinowski asks him out, and doesn’t appear to be joking
The only problem is … well, Jude doesn’t actually know.
Anton can see how this will play out: Jude is a nice guy, and nice guys finish last. And Anton is transgender, and transgender people don’t get happy endings. If he tells Jude, it might destroy everything.
And if Jude tells anyone else … it will.
Intriguing, right? That’s what I thought when Matt told me about this story.
I was so intrigued, that I wanted to know more about it. If you do too, here is the link!
So, I was very lucky when he asked if I was interested in reading it before anyone else. Ecstatic doesn’t begin to cover it.
I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never read any of Matt’s books before. Yeah, I know! What a shame! That’s definitely something I’ll have to do after. Indeed, I fell in love with his writing. I was hooked within the first few pages. Funny in a dry way, smart, educational without ever being preachy, sad at times and to be honest, I couldn’t put it down from the moment I began to read it. So much, that I fell asleep on my Kindle at 2am, and resumed my reading right when I woke up the next morning. When I say I abso-fucking-lutely loved it, I’m not kidding!
I don’t want to spoil too much but I can assure you’ll love it. I felt his inner turmoil as if it were mine. The fear of being discovered by his school mates but also by his boyfriend, all the things he had to think about to not get caught, his father (damn, you just can’t like the man if you’re human!!), his lovely mother, his fantastic aunt, his new friends he has to learn how to trust… There is so much to love in this book!
To give you a taste of his writing (and probably make you want to buy Spy Stuff here), here is a little excerpt.
Anton slowly relaxed as Jude started to brighten up and just … talk. Jude chattering, Anton was starting to realise, was a sign that everything was alright. And Anton desperately wanted it to be, so he simply clung on to Jude’s hand — even though it was raining outside, and really too cold to not be wearing gloves — and let the noise wash over him all the way home.
Which meant, when he let them into the house and the smell of Aunt Kerry’s drunk spag bol invaded their clothes, Anton was … actually in kind of a good mood. Maybe he could do this. Maybe Jude would listen, even if in the end he still decided dating a trans guy wasn’t for him? There was a chance, right?
So when Lily appeared in the doorway, took one look at Jude, and screamed, Anton laughed.
« What the hell! » Jude yelped as she tore back into the kitchen.
« She’s –«
« Mummy, Anton’s friend’s on fire in the hall! »
« — kinda weird. »
« No shi — er, hell? »
« Just ignore her, » Anton advised, hanging up their coats. A nervous swoop made itself known when Jude grinned and kissed his ear, but he laughed it off and pushed him in the direction of the kitchen. « Go get us drinks or something. »
« It’s your house, » Jude said, but wandered off obediently. Anton took a moment to simply breathe before following him.
Lily had firmly decided — despite having seen Jude before and not having really clocked his hair — that Jude was on fire, and Anton had to wrestle a cup of water away from her before it ended up on Jude’s head.
« Nooo, give it back! » she wailed, stretching up to grab his belt as he put the cup in the sink and rummaged in the fridge for Cokes.
« Yeah, Anton, give it back. I might start melting the counter, » Jude said, sliding onto one of the stools at the island counters.
Aunt Kerry, busy with dinner, simply chuckled at the both of them.
« You’re being mean! » Lily yelled, stamping her foot, then turned on Jude, skidding across the tiles to grab at his trousers. « You need a fireman! »
« It’s always that colour, » Jude said in a serious voice, but he was wearing an ear-splitting grin, and Anton’s heart clenched hard at the sheer beauty of him, despite the battered face.
« No, it’s on fire! »
« No it’s not, » Jude said. « It’s ginger. »
« That’s not ginger, ginger biscuits are ginger! »
« They’re brown. »
« If they’re brown, » Lily said seriously, « then why are they called ginger biscuits, huh? »
« Because they have ginger in them. »
« Which makes them ginger and that’s not ginger and you’re on fire! »
« Lily, leave Jude alone, » Aunt Kerry interjected.
« Jew? » Jude dropped his head onto the counter with a muffled cackle into both hands, and Anton couldn’t help but laugh at sight of him.
« Oh God, » he said. « Come on, let’s go into the living room, and –«
« Noooo, you can’t, he’ll put the living room on fire! »
« Lily, seriously, stop it with the fire, he’s not on fire. »
« Jew! » she screeched, and Jude did a full body twitch like he was trying not to curl in on himself.
« Jew! »
« Jude! » Anton corrected.
« Jude, » she echoed scornfully, throwing Anton a fabulously dirty look for a kid who wasn’t even six yet. « Jude! »
« What? » Jude managed, coughing and rubbing at his eyes, still grinning.
« Tell Tasha to stop it! »
Anton froze. Like a bucket of ice water being dumped on his head, every muscle seized up, and the Coke in the cans started rattling in his shaking hands.
« Lily! Stop it! » Aunt Kerry barked, but Jude — oh God, Jude, totally oblivious Jude —
« Okay, » he said. « Who’s Tasha? »
Lily blinked, then flung her arm out, and pointed right at Anton.
« Anton’s Tasha, » she said, like it was so obvious.
« Lily, that’s eno –«
« Anton was Natasha only then she became Anton and Mummy says I have to say he but I forget sometimes, » Lily continued in a loud, inescapable voice. It bounced off the walls and tiles, and one of the cans slipped through Anton’s hands and burst open on the floor. Coke was flung everywhere in long, fizzy bursts, soaking his socks and trousers, and through Lily’s indignant shriek and Aunt Kerry’s yell, all he could see was — was —
The wide-eyed, confused stare that Jude was giving him. And the single word, that word, the word Anton hated. « Natasha? »
Anton opened his mouth, found nothing coming up to save him, and did the only thing possible.
Now you can only want to read Anton and Jude’s story. It’s a Young Adult so there is no wild sex scenes, or anything like that. Sweet, funny, and as I said educational but never preachy. It’s a very good first book to start learning about transgender people. Because no, there isn’t enough books in the genre. We are members of a community, a growing one, but sometimes — too often — we forget the other letters in « LGBT » are just as important.
You can follow Matthew J. Metzger almost everywhere. Matthew roams mainly on Twitter and Facebook, has a free fiction page, runs a blog chronicling his own transition from female to male, and has a website. His young adult backlist can be found on his JMS Books author page. And as a last resort, he can also be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, all you have to do is click here to be the proud owner of your own copy, and discover why it’s called Spy Stuff!
Have a lot of fun!