Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Back In Black by Terri Peterson (transgender thriller)

If you have yet to encounter Strange Little Girls, it is a dark saga, full of dark deeds, and marked by dark sexuality . . . but it is also a story of hope and redemption. What Terri Peterson has crafted in this four-part saga is a trans-positive thriller that is daring, challenging, edgy, and ultimately satisfying.

I have really struggled as to how to approach Back in Black because I do not want to give anything away, or spoil any of the twists in store. Even talking about the emotions it evokes is a challenge, but I owe it to Alice, Emily, Steph, and Stephen.

Where I think I need to begin is by talking about Stephen. This whole story began with him, with the tragedy that sort of splintered his reality and created these other personalities, but we have not really heard much from him in the first three books. While some reader may chafe at that twist, it is entirely in keeping with the gender-positive approach that Terri has taken all along. This has always been a story that is as much about identity as it is expression, about embracing the entire trans community, and paying homage to erotic fetishes as well as lifestyle choices.

With the amnesia that opens the story, and with the way the hospital strips him of his expression, Back in Black sort of lays Stephen bare in the opening pages, and then proceeds to rebuilt his identity (or identities) in a way that is still dark and edgy and dangerous, but with a new sense of self-awareness that leads to some difficult questions and internal conversations as the story goes. Fear not, there is no holding back from the vengeance narrative that has carried the series, but that self-awareness puts a new spin on things.

I really do not want to say much more than that, but I will promise two things. One, as dark as this final chapter gets, there is some light to it . . . moments of happiness . . .  and, most importantly, moments of self-acceptance. Two, if you have been waiting for something big . . . some extravagant act of justice . . . a climax that offers full bang for your buck . . . it is most definitely here, and that promise is as much to be feared and anticipated.

For a while, I really wondered where Terri Peterson was taking Back in Black, how she was going to wrap things up without just sort of stopping (or, worse, leaving us hanging), but I love what she has done with both the narrative here and the character development. Just a wonderful read!

'Terri' Peterson, was born August 19th, 1969, and spent what she referred to as 'a miserably failed experiment in tyranny' at a typical secondary school, where she was bullied relentlessly and made fun of. She left with no regrets, a handful of qualifications for a career in banking, and bitter memories of time spent being the object of ridicule by her peers. Being myopic, gauche, skinny and flat-chested, sporting a head of rich auburn hair, made her a daily target for abuse, which she escaped by becoming immersed in the fantasy world of writing short stories.

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