REVIEW; COFFEE BOY BY AUSTIN CHANT

After graduation, Kieran expected to go straight into a career of flipping burgers—only to be offered the internship of his dreams at a political campaign. But the pressure of being an out trans man in the workplace quickly sucks the joy out of things, as does Seth, the humorless campaign strategist who watches his every move.
Soon, the only upside to the job is that Seth has a painful crush on their painfully straight boss, and Kieran has a front row seat to the drama. But when Seth proves to be as respectful and supportive as he is prickly, Kieran develops an awkward crush of his own—one which Seth is far too prim and proper to ever reciprocate.”
4/5 stars.

This was a quick read, one that was inspired by a week long reading slump in which I physically couldn’t push myself through a single page of any book that I’d picked up. At just 61 pages, it was the perfect book to kick my bum back into gear and get me inspired again. I really enjoy Austin Chant’s writing, having read (and loved!) Peter Darling last year. Trans writers are so overlooked, and when your writing is primarily focused on Own Voices Trans characters, it’s often likely that people will snub your books and shove them aside without a second glance. Not only is this an absolute outrage, but in the case of Austin Chant in particular, it baffles me beyond belief. Setting identity aside, Chant is a great author in every capacity, and so his writing deserves the love and recognition that it so clearly isn’t receiving. As an Independent Author, he only has three books out, two of which don’t have physical releases, and it’s such a crying shame given how endearing his characters are.

This particular book features a trans, gay man as our main character, and a cisgendered, bisexual man as the supporting character. This, to me, is already a great example of representation, because with Trans people being the most under-represented members of the LGBT+ community, it’s also often hard to find a bisexual character who isn’t a walking, talking stereotype and doesn’t fall into the trap of embodying dangerous, damaging tropes.

Despite being such a short story, Chant manages to endear me to these characters in an instant, and proves that it is possible to provide an in-depth background, as well as these nuanced characters, over such a short space. I’m a sucker for loud-mouth characters who develop crushes on the cynical, broody character, and this was a perfect example.

As well as enjoying all of the character dynamics – the positive and negative aspects – and the general flow of Chant’s writing, I really enjoyed that he used this book as an opportunity to really show his readers the contrast between the way Trans people defend themselves, versus the way Cisgendered people defend them. I think it was really important that Kieran was afforded the opportunities to stand up for himself – not only against those being transphobic or tactless, but even to those (such as Seth and Marcus) that were defending him. Kieran makes a very clear point about how, however well meaning their motives are, often their behaviour shines an even brighter light on him, making him stand out even more, as well as subjecting him to more ridicule and criticism.

Obviously, as a cisgendered person myself, I don’t want to make the same mistakes that some of the characters in this book made, all of which are an obvious reflection on the ignorance of real people. That being said, I do think that this is a great book, and that Chant is a lovely write whose work should be given far more hype than it is. He effortlessly draws me in every time with his characters and the world they reside in, as well as giving us genuinely sweet, LGBT+ stories between two men, while also having the personal experiences that come with being both transgender and gay, meaning these are not lazy, half-assed LGBT+ characters with little-to-no accuracy, but instead nuanced characters and narratives that give the reader an accurate depiction of young, trans men.

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