Sunday, March 9, 2014

STATIC by L.A. Witt

Publisher:  Riptide Publishing
Published:   17/01/2014
Genre:   Romance / M/M / Transgender / Fantasy
Book format:  e-book
Obtained via:    NetGalley
Reviewed by name and email address:  Helena Stone

Rating: 5+

Every now and again I pick up a book that blows me away, a book that is more than a good story, a story that does more than entertain me. Some books manage to touch me on a deeper level and make me want to go out and shout the title from the rooftops, bully people into buying and reading the book now, immediately. ‘Static is one of those books.’

For starters there is the story of Alex and Damon who have been dating for two years. They have grown so close that Damon wants to marry his girlfriend, although she doesn’t seem to be as eager as he is to tie the knot. Damon knows there is something bothering Alex. She seems to have mood-swings, suffer with bouts of depression and uses alcohol to medicate herself on occasion. Damon has no idea why Alex is this way but accepts her as she appears to be, darker periods and all.

One night, after she has visited the parents she’s estranged from, Alex fails to contact Damon. Worried about the woman he loves Damon goes to her house only to be confronted by a handsome man when the door opens.

Damon is shocked to discover this man is Alex; that the girl he has been dating for two years is in fact a shifter, one of a small percentage of people capable of changing their gender depending on whether they feel male or female. Not that Damon has a problem with the idea of shifters. In a world where most people disapprove of shifters and would prefer to deny their right to live their life in whatever body they need to, Damon is among the accepting minority.

The problem is that Alex is no longer able to shift. Thanks to an implant that was forced on him without his consent, Alex is now static in his male body. And Damon is straight.

The problems Alex and Damon face are endless. Living in a world where shifting is considered an anomaly and most people only know Alex as a girl, Alex the man finds himself confronted by discrimination, gossip and bullying.

“This world is designed for people whose brains match their bodies, and f..k anyone who not only can but needs to change from day to day or hour to hour.”

Imprisoned in his male body even when everything inside him screams that he is female is almost impossible to deal with as is the thought that he is stuck in this situation thanks to an illegal operation inflicted upon him by his parents. And to top it all off there’s the fact that illegal implants can pose a health risk while removal of it is both very dangerous and not always successful. And finally there is Damon, the man Alex loves, the partner he kept secrets from, his very straight lover who may not be able to stay with him now that he’s no longer able to be female.

Damon has his own set of problems to deal with. He’s worried about his partner’s health both mentally and physically of course but there’s more. Once he gets used to the idea that his girlfriend is now male, and possibly locked into that body forever, Damon has to sort out his feelings for Alex.

“Of course he’s Alex. But he’s not. But he is.”

Damon is lucky that he has friends he can talk to, people who understand shifting as well as his doubts and confusion.

“What you need to do is stop looking for the woman you knew. Just look for the person.”

But advice, no matter how good, isn’t always easy to follow. If Damon is sure of one thing it is that he is straight. And Alex, at least for now but maybe forever, is male.

“I loved Alex and always would, but didn’t know how to love him now. What would happen when we got tired of not touching?”

Damon’s journey from confusion, through stubborn loyalty to the understanding that things haven’t really changed as much as he’d thought was breath-taking.

“I loved him the same as I loved her because they were one and the same.”

The night when Alex discovers he has far more support than he could ever have imagined is the same night when Damon discovers that love is love, no matter what body your lover happens to be living in.

“The intimacy was still there from before this had all started, right there waiting this whole time for us to come and get it.”

This was the section of the book I read with tears in my eyes. The ending of the book put a huge grin on my face and made me happy. The scenes where it all comes together for Alex and Damon touched my heart and will stay with me for a very long time.

“I’d had to learn to navigate some unfamiliar terrain, but the desire was still there because I wanted Alex, in every way, on every level, I wanted Alex.”

This book was a compulsive read for me on every level. I loved the way in which it was written, found myself completely engrossed in the story, felt all the feelings for and with the characters and couldn’t stop reading until the very last page.

In the author’s Note L.A. Witt says the following:

“By the time I finished Static, I had a much deeper and more sympathetic understanding of people whose gender identity doesn’t fall into the culturally accepted binary of male-bodied men and female-bodied women.”

The author continues by stating that she hopes the same will be true for the reader and I can assure her that it was definitely the case for me. I can’t speak for anyone else of course, but I’d challenge anyone to read this book and not walk away with a better understanding of gender issues. I’ve no idea why it is easier for me to imagine how painful it would be to lose the ability to shift between genders than it is to imagine the feeling of living in the wrong body but for me that is how it worked. It is as if this book has removed blinkers from my eyes; as if I can suddenly see and understand things that were always there but out of focus for me.

This is the sort of book that should be required reading for everyone. Stories like ‘Static’ make a subject that is hard to deal with for a lot of people more accessible and will, hopefully and over time, create understanding and thus, a better and more tolerant world. I’m sure some will say I’m naive and overly optimistic but I have to believe that the day will come when people will be allowed to be who they need to be without the rest of the world feeling entitled to tell them they’re wrong.

The author added that she hopes her readers enjoy the story. I hope my review has made it clear how much I loved this story and the message it so eloquently shares.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.


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