Cover Image: I Am Chris

I Am Chris

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I found this an intense read, in fact at one point I wasn't sure if i could finish it, such is the sense of menace and threat throughout the book. Set in small town USA, Chris is a trans young man, who is riding bulls in the rodeo to earn enough money to take care of his sister. The town is under the grip of the local sheriff who is deeply dishonest and gets people addicted to drugs so he can take control of them. He takes against Chris and makes life almost impossible for him. There are many twists and turns in this book, which can be confusing at times whilst obvious things appear to get missed. Chris makes friends although that proves to be dangerous for them and he also gets a girlfriend who knows Chris is trans. There is transphobia from others in this book, at times Chris also refers to his body in a way that I wasn't sure would be totally accurate for someone who is trans, there is also a suicide. I really enjoyed the bullriding parts especially the connection that Chris had with the bulls, it was much more humane than its often portrayed (I would give it a half star for that making it 3 1/2 but goodreads doesn't allow for that!). Once I got past the initial awfulness of Chris's situation, the story was exciting and I was gripped and happy with the way it was resolved. I would say though that this story is not for the fainthearted. 

With thanks to the publisher and netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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When I decided to read I Am Chris by R. Kent, I knew I would likely enjoy it. I’ve already read one other book by this author called The Mail Order Bride, and found I really liked their style of writing. Little did I realize exactly how much I would fall in love with this story, and especially the main character, Chris Taylor.

R. Kent’s first novel was set in the Old West, but I Am Chris is a more contemporary Western, since it is set in the year 1994 in a small town in Texas. It is a coming-of-age story for seventeen-year-old Chris. 
At the beginning of the book, everything has pretty much fallen apart for Chrissy Taylor. Her father has died, her stepmother has lost everything they had on booze and drugs, and Chrissy is left to take care of herself and her young sister Luce in a small town they have moved to. Chrissy sees only one good thing in all this tragedy, a chance to be who he truly is…Chris Taylor, a young bull rider in the rodeo, and a young man able to help his sister and himself live a better life. Of course in a small, redneck town, that may not be so easy, especially when the not so upstanding sheriff and social services get involved.

The tale is told in First Person POV through the eyes of Chris. Normally I think of this POV as rather limiting since you only see the story through one person, but not with this book. The characters in this story are so real, raw, and human. Even the “good guys” are given flaws and quirks you wouldn’t normally expect of characters who are supposed to be on the “right side” of the tale. The worst of the bad guys are easy to identify since they are ugly in just about every way, which is kind of typical for Westerns. You don’t learn their true motivations until near the end of the book. The author did an amazing job with these folks; creating the perfect characters for this type of novel.

The action and danger in this story is nonstop, from the dangerous bull riding in the rodeo, the risk of Chris being outed, to the threat of the folks who are intent on hurting Chris and others in the tale. There is even a bit of romance in the book. No matter what, I had to keep reading. That’s how exciting I found this book.
This is a terrific story for young adults, especially those who might identify as transgender or know someone who does. It’s a wonderful novel for those of us who are young only in our hearts. It’s also perfect for those who just love exciting westerns. Ah, hell! Just read this novel! It’s great!

I received an ARC from NetGalley and Bold Strokes Books for an honest review.
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3 stars
Wow, this is tough.  This review will be difficult.   I know there is a good story in there somewhere.......fighting to get out......but it just didn't make it.
This story is about a 17 year old cowgirl (Chris) living as a cowBOY.  Mostly because she loved riding bulls in the rodeo and they don't allow women.  She and her 9 year sister (Luce) are basically orphaned when their father is killed and their stepmother is in a coma.  Luce is put in foster care and Chris is taken to the County boys home. Here is where the story starts with bad and progressively gets worse and more worse.  I'm not going to give away any content here but there is never a let up.  No snippets of joy to break up the unpleasant depressing progression.  Just awful event after awful event.  I kept reading, although it was very difficult, because I was hoping for a turn around.  At the 90% point it had an abrupt fairy tale ending.  I have no idea how the ending is actually going to work but I guess that's what fairy tales are.
The writing was good but entirely from Chris. Sort of felt like  we were reading his diary.  I did enjoy the rodeo and bull riding parts.  You get a very descriptive ride on a bull.  (Although I still have no idea why you have your own rope with special bells on it and why you dangle it by the bulls shoulder.)  The action scenes were very descriptive and exciting.. 
There is a light romance which is a bit odd, between Chris (cowgirl/boy) and Laney (cowgirl). We are never told whether Laney loves Chris the cowgirl or Chris the cowboy.
See I told you there is a good story in there trying to get out.  It just needs another round of solid editing.
I was given this ARC in exchange for an honest review
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I've been a big fan of R.Kent since their debut book "The Mail Order Bride"

This book is a little different though.

This tale is set in current times and focuses on the battle Chris wages to both be true to themselves, and win money in bull riding at local rodeos. But the town is run and controlled by a corrupt, cruel bastard with a badge who has warped reasons for being who he is. In his mind, anyway. He is enabled and assisted by both the local social services worker and the person in charge of the boy's home. So Chris has to survive everything those adults throw at him, as well as make a name for himself in the competitive and bone-breaking sport of bull riding, and navigate new friendships and a growing attraction to one of those friends. Whew, that's a lot!

Chris is an honourable young man born into a body he doesn't feel reflects who he truly is, and yet manages to rise above his circumstances. He has a big heart that he, unfortunately, wears on his sleeve. He's a true survivor that lets love lead him, no matter the crappy world he's been dragged into. The secondary characters all breathe true as well. Every one of them have secrets and motivations that have affected their little town in ways we don't see until close to the end of the book.

The pacing of the story is great, and the world R. Kent has created, the characters that populate the small town and the hurdles that threaten to keep Chris from the life he wants...all of it kept me reading far past bedtime.
The book is well-peppered with true human strength, bravery from even the most unlikely characters, fear, uncertainty and the capacity to reach for dreams that shouldn't exist. The closing chapters will have you cheering for more than just Chris.

I Am Chris is one of my favourite books. It is the story of courage, redemption and hope, and there's a lot to love here.
Read it for the people you'll meet in the book's pages. Read it to be uplifted and shown what courage can achieve.
Just read it.

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