Pantomime (First book in Pantomime series)
By: Laura Lam
Published: February 5th, 2013
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
This book is one of the most talked about novels that came out in 2013: both as a young adult novel and as part of the LGBT genre. And for good reason! This novel deals with a question that many teens and adults deal with: Do I like men or women? Who am I attracted to the most? Which one do I prefer kissing the most? It is a question that our main character deals with throughout the book and does not have answers for at the end. But that is not the only question our main character has.
Despite what the description on the book would have you believe: Iphigenia “Gene” Laurus and Micah Grey are not star crossed lovers. They are not even siblings or cousins. They are one in the same person. Gene is her past life while Micah is his current life.
Gene’s life is that of a 16-year-old daughter from a prominent noble family. She’d far rather climb trees with her brother, Cyril, and his best friend, Oswin. She finds more the study of sword play and history far more interesting than dreaming of her future husband, wearing dressing and corsets, and filling her dowry chest with her hand-made embroidery. Gene’s mother, however, would rather her behaving as a proper young woman about to be debuted into society should. Even if Gene could pretend to be that proper young woman that her mother dreams of her to be, Gene has a secret that would make a normal life within high society impossible. A secret known only to her family, but one they do not know how to deal with. When her parents try to force a decision on her, Gene sees no other option but to run away to the streets.
Lost and unfamiliar with life on the streets, what little money Gene took with her is stolen and she is left beaten up. Her paths cross with a spice merchant who takes her in for a short while. He feeds her, clothes her in less conspicuous clothing, and gives her a safe roof over her head before her old life forces her back on the run. And then she is drawn in by the bright lights and mysteries of the circus.
This is where Micah Grey’s life begins. He decides to audition and convinces them to let him join. However, Micah cannot simply become an aerialist, especially without any proper training. He must start out as a lowly worker, causing him to be hazed by the other circus members. Part of the hazing is due to the fact Micah is the newest member and because of his merchant-class background, while others haze him because he is working up the ladder to become a performer. Aenea, one of the aerialists, shows him the ropes, and before long, he begins to fall for her and she for him. While Micah juggles his truths and lies from the circus members of his true origins, he also must work had to keep Gene’s secret from being revealed. One that he does not even know how to handle.
But what secret would cause two parents to make a choice for their daughter without her consent or even opinion on the matter? A secret that both Gene and Micah would fear that if it would come to light, would cause everyone around them to shun Gene/Micah.
Gene/Micah is intersex: s/he was born with a penis, is already developing set of breasts, and a working set of ovaries [s/he experiences their first period while at the circus]. A doctor believes that the best course of action is to put Gene into surgery to remove the penis and reconstruct a vagina. The vagina, while possibly would allow her to carry a child to term, would not be able to feel any sensation when having sex. The idea of going under the knife to remove the penis revolts Gene/Micah to the core and is angry that her parents would force her to go through such a thing. But that is not the only secret Gene discovered. Her parents are NOT her parents; her brother is not her brother. Gene was given to her father when she was but an infant, along with an extremely large amount of money. Even her so-called parents do not know who her real parents are.
Given that Gene/Micah is intersex, that makes using pronouns to describe them difficult. Not only does the English language lack a standard word, but the narrative is from a first person perspective: Gene/Micah’s perspective. Adding what gender Gene/Micah sees themselves as and their uncertainty about what sex they are ultimately attracted to does not make things easier. The attraction to both sexes is clearly seen in how the author describes both male and female bodies through Gene/Micah’s eyes.
Gene takes on the identity of Micah Grey, dresses up at first as a boy to escape the path her so-called parents has set for her, responds to that name and what others call Micah boy/man and does not contradict others who assume Micah is male, but never outright calls themself as male or uses masculine terms to describe themself. Much like their sexuality, Gene/Micah does not know what they are. This book (and the upcoming second book) is a journey of self-discovery in a multitude of platforms: gender, sex/sexuality, and personal identity. This journey has not been easy for our protagonist so far and it does not look to be an easy road ahead. I can only hope that Laura has multiple books planned for this series, at least more than three. Laura has commented on her blog that she has been working on two other up-coming books but they are none-Micah.
I LOVED reading this book! I enjoyed reading the shift between Gene and Micah’s lives, learning more about the secrets of Gene, the progression into Micah’s life, and their path of identity discovery. I burnt through reading this on my phone [my library ONLY had it available in digital, BOO!] in a little under a day and was left feeling excited for the upcoming second book. I have heard good things about this book and it is all true.
Enough gushing from me about the book, I want to know what everyone else thought about it. Let me know in the comments below what you think about the book and what you think the upcoming book, Shadowplay, will be about and reveal to us!
- Book Review: Pantomime by Laura Lam (urbandystopia.net)
- ARC Review – Shadowplay by Laura Lam (innocencewalker.wordpress.com)