Genre: Contemporary Fiction | Diversity: Trans (#OwnVoices) | My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Nevada is the darkly comedic story of Maria Griffiths, a young trans woman living in New York City and trying to stay true to her punk values while working retail. When she finds out her girlfriend has lied to her, the world she thought she’d carefully built for herself begins to unravel, and Maria sets out on a journey that will most certainly change her forever.
Nevada follows Maria, a 29-year-old trans woman, as she struggles to make sense of her place in the world after breaking up with her long-term girlfriend. She steals her ex’s car and drives to Star City, Nevada, where she meets James, a guy who doesn’t yet know or acknowledge that he’s also trans. This is a book about self-exploration—and how sometimes you don’t have all the answers.
amazing stream-of-consciousness third person narration
When I started reading Nevada, I could hardly put it down. I’m not usually a fan of third person in character-driven novels, but Imogen Binnie manages it so well that you still feel like you’re inside Maria’s head. The stream-of-consciousness style flows incredibly well and gives Maria this slightly distanced voice—which makes sense considering who Maria is.
Maria talks a lot about how disconnected she feels from her girlfriend, about how shutting down is an automatic defense mechanism from her life pre-transition and she’s never quite been able to stop. While the reader gets all of Maria’s thoughts, we see the ways she hides them from other people, even the ones she should be closest to. At the same time, she acknowledges that she’s closed off from people, and talks about why. As a straight boy, shutting down was survival instinct—and as any of us with poor coping skills can attest, it’s hard to find new brain pathways after childhood.
millennial love letter to Brooklyn
I was also really drawn into the story because of the Brooklyn setting and the tone. I found Maria incredibly relatable: she’s 29 and she still doesn’t know how to be herself in the world, how to find her place in society. She’s good at surviving in New York City, but that’s about it. A lot of her thoughts revolve around trying to figure herself out. I think any reader who’s been 20-something and confused will be able to relate to Maria’s voice, regardless of being cis or trans.
I really enjoyed how Maria talked about the internet. When she first transitioned, it was her safe space to talk about what she was going through, to get advice from other trans women, and to not feel alone. I found myself smiling and almost nodding along with her as she spoke about this, as I have a similar relationship to the internet. In fact, I think a lot of queer people do, regardless of being gay or trans or bi/pan or ace/aro spec or anything in between. I know I have definitely turned to the internet to feel less alone in my thoughts, and it was really refreshing to see this acknowledged by a character.
intense look at trans life at different stages of understanding
At its core, of course, Nevada is about Maria’s experience as a trans woman, and about James, the “straight guy” she meets on her journey. The two become mirrors of each other in a way, where James is so in denial of who he is—not a guy—and Maria wants to help him figure it out even though she’s barely keeping her own shit together.
It was refreshing to read about Maria’s experiences, and heart-breaking to read the passages from James’s perspective. He expresses feelings of trans-ness, but doesn’t acknowledge what they mean. I can’t speak for the trans representation (although it should be noted that this is an #OwnVoices book), but I can say this: Nevada is a great book for cis readers, in that we see different stages of trans women’s experiences.
I both loved and hated the way this book ends: completely abruptly. On the one hand, I wanted the peace of mind of knowing how things turn out for Maria and James, whether or not James resolves to transition and Maria ends up back in New York. At the same time, I recognize why Binnie ended the book this way: because life is this journey that doesn’t really end, whether someone transitions or not. None of us—cis or trans—really ever have everything figured out. By leaving it open-ended, Binnie leaves the readers to consider and not just the characters, but themselves.
Overall: highly recommend.
Nevada is about Maria’s experiences as a trans woman, but ultimately it’s also about being a slightly f*cked up human being, and about figuring yourself out—even when you don’t have all the right answers.
*Content/Trigger Warnings: transphobia, drug & alcohol use.*
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Have you read Nevada? Got a recommendation for a great book with a trans MC? Drop it in the comments below.