Book Nook: Crossdressing in Teen Fiction By Todd Strasser

Book Nook: Crossdressing in Teen Fiction By Todd Strasser

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By Elizabeth Parker

After I describe these books you’ll think they were written by one of our transgender authors specifically for our community. But they were written by a popular young adult author for the teen reader.

I’ve been watching the young adult fiction area for some time, as these books tend to recycle adult fiction plots for a younger audience. I’ve often thought that transgender plots might get recycled also. This hasn’t happened to a great degree yet. A notable exception is the horror series about shape-shifting vampires by M.C. Sumner (see the Bibliography).

Recently however, I came across a fantastic set of books which have to be read to be believed.

The series is Rock ‘N’ Roll Summer, by Todd Strasser. The premise is that two high school boys, Frank and Eddie decide to join an all-girls band for the summer in order to have their way paid to fun on the beach.

In the first book, The Boys In The Band, we see how Frank and Ernie come to join the band. They each do it for different reasons. Frank is in love with a girl who joins the band, and Ernie wants to go to the beach. They each alternate periods of disgust with their assumed role, with delight at some of the options opened up to them. Fortunately for the plot (and us), they are disgusted at different times and talk each other into continuing the masquerade when it counts. Frank gets to be close to his lady-love, who is the girlfriend of a hoodlum. She gives him help with his role, thinking he is a girl who needs help with her look. Ernie has fun at the beach partying with another member of the band (as a girl).

All of the cliches are present, delightfully so. Believability is weak, but not as bad as some TG fiction. The downside? Being teen fiction, some of the descriptiveness we would all appreciate is absent. The boys mostly put on their “girl clothes”. Rarely are the outfits described. It will be somewhat disgusting to those who try to pass in public at how easily the boys assume their roles. They are able to talk in their “girl voices” after a week of practice.

Eventually of course, Frank’s girlfriend discovers their secret. But after the predictable soul searching they decide to stay together. Of course, the path of true love is never easy. In the sequel, Playing For Love, the story is continued. An aggressive girl biographer enters the equation, who has a reputation for getting her in-depth stories by having an affair with the subject. How she intends to do this with the all-girl band is a delightful plot element in this book. She comes on to Frank, since she seems to be attracted to him, and he is supposedly unattached. How she can be attracted to him as a girl is never spelled out, but either she is attracted to him as a girl, and is bisexual, or she is attracted to him as a boy dressed as a girl and suspects his secret. Quite a mature topic for a teen book! She does eventually uncover Frank’s secret and blackmails him into leaving his girlfriend for her. She plays quite a few control games with Frank at this point.

The sub-plot in this book involves Ernie, who finds that Frank’s girlfriend’s hoodlum ex-boyfriend is attracted to him. He decides to make the most of the situation and gets the guy to make quite a fool of himself in the process. The book ends somewhat predictably, with one surprise of a comic nature.

You get a bonus book this month, since it’s by the same author. The book is Help! I’m Trapped In My Sister’s Body, by Todd Strasser. It is written for a slightly younger crowd, maybe middle school versus high school. It is much more silly, as you might expect with the younger audience, but interestingly enough, contains a few sections with better descriptiveness than the above books.

This book is part of a series of “Help! I’m Trapped. . .” books. These books center around a machine in the hero’s school which allows people to swap bodies. This seems to be the only book so far which contains a cross-gender switch, though I haven’t been able to check out Help! I’m Trapped In My Teacher’s Body.

In this book, the hero’s sister is dreading a trip to the dentist. He is dreading a visit from his pretty pen pal, who thinks he is a star athlete. Of course, the boy thinks the dentist is no big deal and his sister has great athletic skill. To solve this problem they decide to do what all of us would do, switch bodies for the day. Of course, hilarious complications ensue, culminating with the boy having to go on a date as his sister. The scene where she helps him get dressed is not be be missed!


Strasser, Tod, “The Boys In The Band (Rock ‘N’ Roll Summer, No 1)”, Harper Mass Market Paperbacks, July 1 1996, ISBN: 0061062553

Strasser, Tod, “Help! I’m Trapped In My Sister’s Body”, Apple, May 1 1997, ISBN: 0590921673

Strasser, Tod, “Playing for Love (Rock ‘N’ Roll Summer, No 2)”, Harper Mass Market Paperbacks, August 1 1996, ISBN: 0061062561

Sumner, M.C., “The Principal“, Harper Mass Market Paperbacks, February 1, 1994, ISBN: 0061061751

Sumner, M.C., “Substitute“, Harper Mass Market Paperbacks, April 1, 1994, ISBN: 0061061883

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Category: crossdressing


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