All Kinds of Other review: A coming out and coming of age story

All Kinds of Other by James Sie
All Kinds of Other by James Sie /

It’s hard enough trying to navigate the complexities and politics of life in high school, but for Jack and Jules it’s even harder as the two boys learn more about themselves and each other in James Sie’s brilliant new story All Kinds of Other.

Jules is learning what his life will be like now that he’s come out as gay to his social circles. Thanks to his somewhat affluent life in Los Angeles and his supportive parents and friends, he’s able to chart a course for himself. It’s not to say it’s been easy for him, because it hasn’t. He plays basketball for his school and he has to deal with other students who don’t accept him for who he is. But he’s working through it.

Jack is new to Earl Warren High School, having moved with his father from Pittsburgh. Jack is trying to recover from something that happened in his past and he’s looking for a fresh start in California, but he knows it won’t be easy because life as a trans boy comes with complications. He’s hoping he can just be known as Jack to his new circle of friends, and to Jules, to whom he’s instantly drawn.

The past and present collide in James Sie’s All Kinds of Other

All Kinds of Other by James Sie
All Kinds of Other by James Sie /

When Jack’s past comes to light, everything changes for both boys and they must decide how to proceed, both individually and together.

Sie captures the essence of life in high school with ease, keeping conversations current and fresh so that it’s like listening in on a conversation between friends. Though Jack and Jules’ high school is forward thinking and tries to create a safe place, the truth is that there are so many ways for them to be hurt. The insular bubble still isn’t an entirely safe place. High school is hard enough, but it can be horrible for kids trying to figure out who they are while surrounded by people who don’t understand them.

There really aren’t enough books that deal with what it’s like being gay or trans in high school, and Sie’s book paints the picture of how difficult it can be. It’s also a great way for cis folks to gain an appreciation and understanding for gay and trans folks.

As a gay man born to a Chinese father and Italian immigrant stepmother, Sie knows what it’s like to feel like an “Other.” Perhaps most poignantly, Sie wrote Jules as the openly gay teen he wishes he could have been if circumstances had been different.

All Kinds of Other is inspired by a friend who brought his trans son to LA, and Sie was able to watch and appreciate the boy’s excitement at being in a place where he was only known as a boy.

As a cis female, this book opened my eyes to so many things. Yes, it’s a work of fiction but these days it’s so hard to know when you’re in a safe place to ask questions and understand things that aren’t familiar to you. With All Kinds of Other the reader goes along with Jack and Jules on their journey and comes out with a much better understanding of what life is like for gay and trans teens.

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This book, though geared toward young adults, should be required reading in high school and college. It’s engaging and endearing, funny in some moments and gut-wrenching in others, but it opens eyes and minds to other stories that need time in the spotlight. We need more stories like this.

All Kinds of Other is available now.