Welcome to St. Hell: My Trans Teen Misadventure

Scholastic/Graphix. Jun. 2022. 304p. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781338824445; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781338824438.
Gr 10 Up–A trans adult speaks to his teenage self in this heartfelt, fourth wall–breaking graphic memoir. The narrative is separated into two parts, covering Hancox’s high school years and college years respectively, and he freely uses his deadname, Lois, as well as she/her pronouns to describe his younger self. In high school—as much fun as “soggy ham butties”—teenage Lewis just wants to fit in and be “normal.” He also struggles with anorexia and an exercise disorder. Despite sharing with his mom at age eight that he’s a boy, Lewis tries to “bottle up the boy inside” as an angsty teen. Lewis’s college years bring more positive moments of self-discovery, and a new emo look, as he comes out as lesbian, then trans. With support of family and friends, Lewis ultimately seeks gender-affirming care—brilliantly depicted as a series of boss battles. As author and adult narrator, Hancox maintains a frank yet humorous tone without shying away from painful moments. The winning combination of British slang, pop culture references, and technology help establish the early 2000s setting. Much like “St. Hell”—“where all is grey”—the illustrations are fittingly black and white. Some images realistically depict aspects of puberty (e.g., menstruation, pubic hair, breasts) and transitioning (e.g., testosterone injections, binding, packers). There is also a short sex scene that includes unhooking a bra, lying in bed together, and implied masturbation under sheets. Back matter includes actual photographs of Hancox and crew. All characters appear white, except Hancox’s friend Jess, who has darker skin.
VERDICT Recommended for all teen (and college) collections—and, sadly, one likely to draw significant attention in today’s culture wars.

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