Monday, May 11, 2015

Dorm Room Secrets by Courtney Captisa and Claire Bear

Dorm Room Secrets (Going to College as a Girl), the latest transformation tale from Courtney Captisa & Claire Bear, is an interesting sort of story. It's largely a realistic sort of transgender fantasy, but one with a very unwilling participant at its heart.

Kenneth is an average lazy, underachieving teenager, perfectly content to just hang out and play video games. Down to his last hope, he's initially excited when an acceptance letter arrives from Pepper State University, but furious to find it addressed to Kaitlyn. Almost immediately, his mother starts pressuring him to redecorate his bedroom for a visit from for his younger cousin Emily, going so far as to send him shopping for things like pink bed sheets, maxi-pads, and "38D bras in white, black, pink and something fun." At the same time, he finds he's losing weight (which is not a problem) and that his nipples are becoming swollen and sensitive (which is a problem).

How this is all connected is the central mystery, which I won't go so far as to spoil for you, but I will say really enjoyed the way Courtney and Claire develop the transformation and reveal the truth behind it. As we find out later, there is a larger sort of coordinated effort behind the situation, but that's not the focus of the story . . . although I would love to see it explored further. Certain aspects of it are exaggerated or accelerated, but not to a ridiculous degree, and it's all done for narrative effect.

There are some sexual scenes to the story, but this is not a work of erotica. Instead, those scenes are used to initially establish Kenneth as a normal, straight, sexually active young man. Later on, they're used to demonstrate his acceptance, and to explore his exploration of a new gender and a new life. They may be a little more explicit than some fans expect, but they are fun, tasteful scenes that really do add something to the story. In fact, a few of them are almost romantic in nature, and I think readers will agree they're precisely what we hoped to see from Kenneth/Kaitlyn.

For those readers who are sensitive to these things, there are a few editing issues that I'm sure a final round of proofreading would catch. Nothing major, but they are distracting in a few spots, especially where the wrong character's name is used, or where a word is missing. Don't let that stop you, however, as Dorm Room Secrets is a really fun story that develops its themes quite nicely.

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