Escape From St. Hell

Scholastic/Graphix. May 2024. 304p. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781338824476.
Gr 9 Up–In this affirming follow-up to Welcome to St. Hell, Hancox documents his journey to self-acceptance as a trans man growing up in northwest England. While the first volume covered his high school years, this one begins in 2008 with Hancox heading off to Manchester University to pursue filmmaking, starting testosterone, and examining the stereotypes surrounding masculinity. In grayscale illustrations that mimic a video game, a present-day Lewis drops in to give his past-self advice and reassurance, as an anxiety meter on the side of the page documents his fears along the way. This book’s strength is in its nuanced exploration of Hancox’s insecurities, including his preoccupation with what it means to be a “real man,” his experiences dating as a trans man, and the dysphoria that leads to a disordered relationship with exercise and food. Hancox injects humor and levity into the story as he navigates his transition and rediscovers his passion for developing creative content.
VERDICT Hancox’s relatable portrayal of anxiety is ultimately encouraging, and while the graphic novel is a continuation of his previous work, this book stands alone as a recommended purchase for any library serving teens.

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