While there are things I was not liking in Welcome to St. Hell: My Trans Teen Misadventure, overall, this is a funny book about a serious topic. The fourth wall breaking helps give breathing room, allowing things to slow down, and be absorbed. There is a lot going on. Not only are we dealing with the “normal teen angst” there is something bigger going on. The point of view is all from hindsight, and perhaps Lewis Hancox remembers a few things not as they happened, but this is as true to life as you can get. Even if you have never dealt with body dysmorphia or know that you are the wrong outside gender, the journey from Lois to Lewis is relatable.
I am sure there are parts that people will not like. Hancox “dead names” himself. Yet, that is a very strong point I felt. The journey as said from Lois to Lewis is the point of the story. It is what we need to see. Some people might not like the fact we see the female body of Lois. Not only do we get her hairy legs and unshaven underarms, but we also see her pubic area and breasts. Some people might not like how Lois’s friends dress or speak (yes, swearing and the obvious joke about the last name Hancock). And one part that was difficult at times is the text is written as they would say it and therefore, there is a very strong accent. There are also triggers with eating disorders and over exercising.
There is sex, drinking (and returning the drink to the earth and car floor) and (gasp) teen rebellion. Hancox’s outer life was “normal”, but his inner life was anything but. The worlds of Lois and Lewis collide as he has come back to talk to himself, explore things from a distance, and put his mom in her dressing gown the entire book. There is a little history of what was and not known at the time even by the medical profession, how Hancock found out about his transgender issues, what was and was not available at the time. and how a school nurse asked if he was one of those “transformers”?
Due to my copy being a reader copy, I am not sure how the illustrators will turn out, or color, but what I saw is fun, not overly detailed, but will mix a more cartoon quality with a more realistic quality when Hancox shows something important. Photographs at the end are also included.