Review of Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live

Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live by Sacha Lamb. Book Smugglers Publishing. 2017.

5 stars.

Avi cover.jpgI loved this so much. I don’t know how its possible that a book centering a trans boy getting bullied, dealing with depression, and feeling suicidal can actually feel appropriately light and warm & hopeful but this book totally manages it. There are so many good people on Avi’s side, caring about him and wanting him to survive and seeing him for who he is, throughout the story, that even with the difficult content, it still felt so hopeful and warm to read. It doesn’t minimize or handwave the bullying or suicidality away, it just…balances them. With this beautifully precise touch.

The writing is gorgeous and feels so deliberate and careful. I felt safe in it, even with this story that cuts so close to the bone for me.

I loved that Avi was surrounded by queer & trans characters, that Lilit was on his side too, that his boyfriend got to be fully himself and in his femmeness at home. I adored how deeply Jewish this story was; it was definitely part of what made it feel like I was wrapping myself in a cozy blanket.

As a Jewish trans reader, it means so much to me to have this story. It’s the first contemporary story I have read with a Jewish trans MC, and it resonated so deeply, in so many ways.

I would gladly read a lot more about these characters, but this story worked for me at the length it was. It felt very much like it was written for trans readers, and for Jewish readers. It was for us first, and didn’t cater to folks who wanted more explanation or more time in certain beats of the story because that’s what they are used to getting. For example, many trans MG & YA stories would center Avi’s coming out to his mom, give that moment in the story a lot of space & room & angst. This story held that experience in a way that really worked for me as a trans reader: one that focused on moments of choice and acceptance and care and love, without also making it a huge deal or even the biggest thing Avi is grappling with. This isn’t a coming out as trans story, it’s a story that includes Avi coming out, that’s about other things. I loved that.

I struggled a bit with Avi getting outed, the origins of the intensification of him getting bullied. It was a hard moment in the story for me, as a reader. I hurt for Avi so much. In the end, I think it worked, and makes sense, and feels so real that it would unfold this way, that of course attempts to help go awry and this character is flawed and imperfect. The other aspects of the character felt more real, because of the flaws that are uncovered. So I do really think it worked and made the story better. Avi gets outed but it doesn’t really get understood by the folks at school; that aspect felt so real and painful and complicated, like this encapsulation of the complexities of trans life.

The trans rep is wonderful. It is deeply real, resonated so much for me, has all these lovely details and references, and feels like it was written for trans readers. I especially liked the moment where one of the boys warns the other about the risks of sleeping in his binder, and he does it anyway. That felt so right to me. Yes, let young trans readers know it’s not safe but also…let him be a boy who is reckless in that way, too. I loved the (In white because it’s a spoiler. Highlight to see.) magical transition element of the story. It really worked for me. I loved that one of the adults was also trans and the reader finds this out with no fanfare.

I highly recommend this novelette; it’s beautiful and heartwrenching and hopeful and cozy and gave me so many feels. The romance is sweet and lovely. I am so glad I got to read it, and that it is out in the world. This story is a lovely ex of how its v possible to tell stories abt hard aspects of being a trans kid that aren’t bleak & full of despair. For that reason alone it is so deeply necessary.

Representation

  • Jewish trans boy MC with depression
  • Trans boy MC
  • Lesbian secondary character
  • Lesbian trans woman secondary character
  • Jewish bisexual non-binary trans boy author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Suicidality. Depression. Bullying, including suicide baiting, ableism, queer hatred, HIV stigma and sexual harassment. Trans character gets outed as trans. Trans character gets misgendered, references being deadnamed by using the name. 

Disclosures

  • Source of the book: ARC from the publisher
  • I have had contact with the author on Twitter.

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