Anders, Charlie. “Choir Boy”. Soft Skull Press, 2005
Charlie Anders’ “Choir Boy” is a laugh a line, suffused with black humor, off the wall happenings and a coming of age novel. Berry is a choir boy and it is his life’s ambition to always be a choir boy. He is enamored with the church and the idea of being involved in the world of divinity is especially appealing to him. The only truth he finds is n church. He is at odds with his parents who always are at war with one another and his best friend, a transsexual prostitute never lives up to expectations. Knowing he is reaching the age when little boys’ voices deepen and his approaching puberty could cause him to have to leave the boys’ choir. In order to prevent this, he deliberately hurts himself and goes to a clinic to get testosterone inhibiting medication. The problem is that the drugs come with a large dose of female hormones. Ashe takes the drugs, strange things happen to his body and when he suddenly discovers that his breasts have reached cup size B, he knows that he has a lot of explaining to do. You can only imagine the chaos that ensues. But Berry learns a great deal from the entire business. He learns what humanity really is and he falls in love. Because he chose to grow up on his own, his coming of age was a bit more difficult than the average kid.
This is not your regular standard coming of age story. It has somewhat of a “tranny” twist to it and the circumstances that make it different also are the reason for the hilarity. Whatever you thought was the meaning of the word “universal”, I can almost guarantee that when you finish this book, you will have found a brand new meaning to the word. Berry came of age in the most unconventional of ways but no matter the trimmings, the story of coming of age is one everyone can relate to. The book is both funny and complex at the same time but it is also strange and engrossing. You grow to love Berry and you laugh and you cry with him. What I found so amazing about “Choir Boy” is that taught me, once again, to reconsider my thoughts on gender. I do not think that I would have been attracted to Berry in anyway—he was nerdy but sweet but I grew to love him.
Anders writing style is wonderful and his descriptions are clear. He really caught me with his writing. The novel is appealing on several different layers. It is not only about coming of age but also an explanation of gender, study of school intolerance and a critique of religion as well as a commentary on the minds of adults. Berry’s resilience to what happens to him is sometimes surreal but always funny and is important to know about a kid who just doesn’t fit into either gender category.
If you have ever felt confused about anything in your life, then you know what I am talking about. Read this book and you will find that your confusion is nothing as compared to Berry’s. All in all, “Choir Boy” is a wonderful way to spend a few hours a day. I highly recommend it.