review by: timncalifornia
In many ways Spy Stuff is a formulaic young adult romance, but this was an extremely well done one. Funnily, or maybe more to the point, the fact that the story deals with a gay couple, one of whom is transgendered male, didn’t alter the formula all that much. We still find angst with parents, the school “in” group, bullies, outsiders, heroes, sports, and personal growth, but the catalyst driving it all in Spy Stuff is the transition experience of Anton.
Anton has started a new school where no one knows he’s FTM (female-to-male) and that’s just the way he likes it. It’s a relief not to worry about being bullied and for the first time he’s able to socialize naturally with the other students in his class. Complications arise when one of the popular guys at school develops a romantic interest in Anton which Anton returns. He has some hard choices to make as he weighs the pros and cons of revealing his past. Will he be able to keep a boyfriend and the other friendships that he’s developed? Or will he be back in the same situation he was before switching schools – reviled and harassed?
High marks to author Matthew Metzger for the factual accuracy of both the internal experience of being transgendered and the daily practical considerations. They are woven naturally into the broader story at hand, only becoming the focus when the storyline calls for it. Both Anton and the secondary characters are well drawn. There are points where Metzger veers into PSA territory on trans* issues but these departures are never overbearing. For the most part any underlying message is delivered with a light touch.
In the end, Spy Stuff is a feel good story where the reader is left with the sense that the good guys won and the bad guys are redeemable or get their just desserts.