Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Battle of the Crossdressers put high school and crossdressing together and what do you immediately think about? I spent my teen years in the mid to late 80's. A time when these things happened: MTV, HBO, and VHS tapes. The combination of HBO and being able to rent VHS movies meant this: It's not just Quentin Tarantino who came out of this time period a movie geek. After all, the only reason so many people "get" his movies is that HBO,VHS tapes, and an abundance of free time meant we could watch the same movie(s) 10-20 times. Now, HBO often played B-type movies the most. Which brings us back to crossdressing...

I came across these two books where the (female) main character dresses up like a boy to "infiltrate" a boys' school:  Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman and The Academy by Emmaline Andrews.
Babe in BoylandThe Academy

So of course, my immediate thought was the 1985 movie, "Just One of the Guys".

Now, for some crazy reason, you may not want to read 2 YA books about crossdressing. So, I decided to take one for the team (of readers) and read both of them to let you know which one is most worthy of your limited reading time. Since nothing says high school girl who's a crossdresser like this movie, the winner needs to come closest to the spirit of this movie. Because I've seen it 20 times and consider it to be the Gold Standard of anything to do with teenage crossdressing girls.

1. It needs to be a comedy- of course. Can't help it. Because of this movie, I expect hilarity to ensue once a girl cuts her hair and dons a jock strap. I mean, a girl pretending to be a boy? How's she going to pee, or shower, or handle a PE class of "shirts and skins" basketball where she gets to be "skins"? I mean these are opportunities for comedic gold, right? Um, not in the "The Academy" where these things are occasions for beatings, a knife fight, and an attempted rape. Which, because of my movie memories, was not what I was expecting. Winner: "Babe in Boyland" for being a light, funny read.

2. The "Just a Girl" Effect:

I mean, there needs to be a (good) reason why a girl would want to pretend to be a boy, right? Why else would you cut your hair, wear ugly shoes, and have to use the boys' bathroom. I mean, a boys' public bathroom? It's got to be in the Top 5 Most Disgusting and Smelly things in the world.
Look, in "Boyland", it's almost eerie how similar it is to the movie. Both characters want to win a writing award that they feel they weren't properly considered part because of the whole "Just a Girl" type thing. So in both the movie and "Boyland" they go undercover to get a story about what boys are really like in the hopes of winning a journalism award. In "The Academy", the main character wants to be a space pilot and escape an arranged marriage. And only boys get to train to be pilots...again, not what I was expecting. If you look at the description of the book on Goodreads, it doesn't even mention it was a futuristic world. Not only that, but it wasn't a convincing futuristic world. For the most part, you didn't feel like the author created a new world and when she felt awkward. Winner: Babe in Boyland 

3. Put a Sock in It:
What we know from "Just One of the Guys" is that the main character must struggle with getting the whole "guy thing" right. And that it's helpful to learn how to walk like a "dude" if you just stuff a sock down your pants. In "Academy", it's pretty much she cuts her hair, ties her boobs down, and...well, that's it. Instant Dude! In "Boyland"...she even uses some glue and fluff to create stubble. Winner: Babe in Boyland. But, I must admit to having some concerns because the book is so similar to the movie.  

The Overall Winner of the "Battle of the Crossdressers", is obviously "Babe in Boyland". It won all categories and deserves this: (from the movie, of course)

But, does "Boyland" too closely resemble "Just One of the Guys"? You know, kind of. As I was reading it, I almost felt like some scenes were lifted straight out of the movie. Like the author had also seen the movie 20+ times like me. But in the end, I thought that "Boyland" was overall charming and entertaining enough in its own right. Now "The Academy" deals with more of the darker issues- like gender identity- than "Boyland". But I honestly don't think it presented those well- it felt awkward. Which makes its sinister tone, kind of pointless. Overall, I'd give "The Academy" a 2 star rating, and "Babe in Boyland" a 3 to 3 1/2 star rating.

Jody Gehrman's Website
Babe in Boyland

Add "The Academy:
The Academy


  1. I've had Babe in Boyland on my WL for awhile so I'm glad it won. I hadn't heard of the other one. Very fun post!

    1. Thanks! I think that you will enjoy Babe in Boyland if you read it when you're in the mood for a light, funny, fluffy read. Now I really want to go rent these movies and watch them (again for the 20+ time): "Victor Victoria"- a woman pretending to be a man, pretending to be a woman. And "Tootsie". Loved Tootsie. Oh, and "World According to Garp"- I love Roberta Muldoon.

  2. I've only read of cross-dressing in manga and I loved them so why not for books? Cool, I'll be adding those soon! :)

    1. Thanks for the comment, Delaney. Is this the manga series? Hana-Kimi, Vol. 1

    2. And many others. I just finished reading that manga! :)

  3. Hi there, saw your link on the Book Blogs (follow for follow) group. Following you through GFC. My Blog: would love a follow back. I'm just off to follow on Twitter.
    I enjoyed your post - these are both news books to me.

    1. Thanks for following, Barbara. (And posting the link to your blog here. I can't keep track of all of the threads and emails I get from the Book Blogs group.) I'm following you. I love your site- beautiful site and beautiful books.

  4. When I see cross-dressing books it reminds me of manga. There always seems to be series about that because they want to get into a certain school or something.

    1. I think this is it: Hana-Kimi, Vol. 1 A girl going to an all boys sports school. I may pick one up- if it's on the funny side.

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