REVIEW: Ciel by Sophie Labelle

The Official Description: Ciel is excited to start high school. A gender non-conforming trans kid, Ciel has a YouTube channel and dreams of getting a better camera to really make a mark. Ciel can always rely on their best friend, Stephie, a trans girl who also happens to be a huge nerd, but their friendship begins to feel distant when Stephie makes it clear she wants the fact that she’s trans to be more invisible in high school. While navigating this new friendship dynamic, Ciel is also trying to make a long-distance relationship work with their boyfriend Eirikur, who just moved back to Iceland. When Ciel befriends Liam, a new trans boy at school, things become more complicated by the minute.

Just the facts: Gender non-conforming kid, Trans kid, Bisexual kid… being kids!

Ciel starts their first year of High School with new hope! – Kinzie Things

My thoughts bit: First of all, I’m a cisgender, white woman and can only review this book from this perspective 🙂 I read a lot of books that contain diverse characters because I love the Queer world and diverse characters appeal to me. That being said, I can’t speak to the “authenticity” of the “Trans” experience… because I’m not trans. What I can do… is read a book like this by an own-voices author and speak to what I learned… or what appealed to me about it. I hope that makes sense.

Ciel is beginning a new year at High School. Ciel identifies as trans and also non-binary. At home, Ciel’s father is great about allowing Ciel to wear what they want and be however they want. I loved the way this relationship was described in the book. My hope is that more children will begin to grow up in homes in which they are allowed to express themselves however they want…. just be who they are.

When Ciel returns to school it’s with their best friend Stephie at their side. They are adorable friends, always supportive and sweet. The one thing that is different for these two is that Stephie doesn’t want people to know that she is trans while Ciel is very public. Ciel even has a youtube channel on which they post videos about being trans and non-binary. I thought this was a great choice by the author for demonstrating that people are different in terms of how they want to express themselves and their gender identities.

There are some lovely scenes in this book when Ciel explains things to their friends/ classmates. There is a brave discussion at an LGBTQIA group at school during which Ciel points out that all those in attendance should give their name and pronouns. Not everyone is aware that there are more pronoun choices than “he” and “she” and Ciel takes the time to explain.

Ciel is also dealing with a long-distance relationship with their boyfriend Eirikurl. He used to live in Montreal but he has returned to Iceland with his family. Ciel is finding that Eirikur doesn’t contact them as much as they had hoped. It’s a learning experience for Ciel.

In my mind, the First year of high school is fifteen or sixteen years old. The characters in this book read as younger than that to me. I just wouldn’t want anyone to pick this up thinking it was a “young adult” book.

This is a great book for young folks who may be exploring their own gender identity, or those who just want to learn about it. There are some great explanations in the book.

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) Deadnaming in school attendance, transphobic hate comments on a youtube video character posts, discussion about there being only two genders (corrected), character breaks up with a partner.

Links: Goodreads

I received an ARC of Ciel by Sophie Labelle from Second Story Press via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.


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