The Flip Side

Overview

Andrew Matthews is the author of many books for young readers in his native England.


From the Hardcover edition.

Robert, a British fifteen-year-old, is confused when he plays the part of Rosalind while studying Shakespeare in school and discovers parts of his personality that he did not know existed.

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Overview

Andrew Matthews is the author of many books for young readers in his native England.


From the Hardcover edition.

Robert, a British fifteen-year-old, is confused when he plays the part of Rosalind while studying Shakespeare in school and discovers parts of his personality that he did not know existed.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"The 15-year old narrator of Matthews's look at British teens coming to grips with gender roles, could have stepped out of a Nick Hornby novel, with his clever observations addressed directly to readers," PW wrote. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From The Critics
Robert Hunt is a 15-year-old boy who, like many other teenagers, is trying to make sense of not only society's views on sexuality, but also his own role as a teenage male. Through experimenting with the female gender in addition to finding himself in a Shakespearean play, Robert realizes the importance of being comfortable with one's self. Growing up in a small town in England, Robert has had an ordinary life. However, when forced to star as Rosalind in the play, As You Like It, the confused Robert begins to question the role of gender. The inexplicable and extraordinary feeling that arises when he plays Rosalind strangely makes him feel happy within himself. Quick to deny this sense of liberation, Robert seeks a confidant, Milena, who has also switched gender roles in the play. Coincidentally, Robert finds relief and reassurance in Milena, for she, too, has reservations about her own sexuality. Shortly after Milena's confession, Robert receives news that his best friend, Kevin, has been struggling with the same dilemma, for he has been hiding his homosexuality from himself, as well as everyone else. This reoccurring issue of gender in society causes Robert to accept Kevin for who he is. Told with honesty and humor, young readers will enjoy this novel, for it presents issues relative in the lives of many teenagers. Robert's search for himself and dedication to his friendships is admirable and inspiring under the lighthearted approach of showing the importance of knowing yourself. 2003, Random House Children's Books, 146 pp. Ages young adult. Reviewer: Amanda Fiegel
KLIATT
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 2003: This gender-bender YA novel is written by a British author of more than 50 books who had been a high school English teacher for many years before writing for young people. By page 10, we find ourselves with the main characters in an English class, talking about Shakespeare. "I reckon Shakespeare must have been some sort of perv, Miss." And why? "Well, he's got this girl making out she's a boy making out he's a girl. That's a bit iffy, isn't it?" And that's the beginning. When our hero Robert pretends to be Rosalind in the play, he realizes some side of himself he never knew existed, and he kind of likes her, er, him. Then the girl of his dreams, Milena, thinks he's special too once she sees him as Rosalind, and she encourages his cross-dressing. When Robert's parents go away for a weekend, he and Milena cross-dress to attend a party. Robert's father catches them kissing when he unexpectedly comes home early, and he's taken aback because here's Robert dressed as a girl kissing a boy. Explanations are in order. And explanations aren't so easily understood, by anyone. Robert can't understand why he enjoys being a girl; Milena doesn't know if she is attracted to Robert, or to Robert as a girl; and their friend Kevin just then gets the nerve to come out of his closet as a homosexual—what does it all mean? Kevin doesn't want to dress like a girl—he's a boy who likes other boys. Is Milena a girl who really likes other girls, or just Robert dressed as a girl? Not every teenager is ready to go into this labyrinth. But those who are will find this short novel intelligent and the characters endearing. And, anyway, didn'tShakespeare start it all? KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Random House, Dell Laurel-Leaf, 147p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
VOYA
Fifteen-year-old Robert Hunt is experiencing a mixed-up year in Crossleigh, England, where he has been assigned to play Rosalind in Shakespeare's As You Like It, opposite the lovely Milena, who is playing Orlando. As Matthews boldly, often humorously, explores gender roles and stereotypes, Rob wonders, "What makes gender such a serious issue and how come guys are so sensitive about it?" His English class struggles with the concept of "a boy being a girl being a boy being a girl." Rob finds himself intrigued, and when he puts on a dress, the Rosalind in Rob surfaces-and shines. Although Rob claims to have conquered his confusions, he is trying to make sense of the jumble in retrospect. His story is oddly believable, yet its occurrences seem extraordinarily coincidental, even devised, especially the father who declares, in almost the same breath, his homophobia and his unconditional love for his newly discovered as cross-dressing son. From an American television program featuring attractive gender-benders, through straight, lesbian, gay, and transgendered characters, to Rob's househusband dad, Matthews works to include everyone. Although Rob's confusions all wrap up neatly by the end, he warns readers to "hold on tight" because sex and love are complicated, mucky, and confusing-whatever your identity. Readers who like it will recommend it to everyone. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P J S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Delacorte, 176p,
— Cynthia Winfield
School Library Journal
Gr 8-10-During the study of As You Like It, Robert Hunt is asked to do as was done in Shakespeare's time and play the female role of Rosalind, opposite his classmate Milena as Orlando. To his great surprise and confusion, Rob discovers that he likes dressing up as a woman, and, more importantly, he likes who he is as Rosalind: stronger and more confident than when he's just Rob. Thus begins his experimentation with cross-dressing and exploration of his own sexuality. While a book that helps teens come to grips with these issues is always welcome, The Flip Side takes the easy way out far too often to be effective. Rob is lucky that Milena also just happens to be confused, and the two become instant confidantes. Then, Rob's best friend conveniently reveals that he is gay. Another classmate throws a cross-dressing party, and it seems that many kids are fascinated by gender-bending. And, in the end, Rob concludes that he is not gay, and that what he feels for Milena is "the real thing." Teens who are actually struggling with their identity may not relate to the painless and facile process depicted here. Carol Plum-Ucci's What Happened to Lani Garver (Harcourt, 2002) or Nancy Garden's Annie on My Mind (Farrar, 1992) offer a more realistic view of teen life "outside the norm."-Ronni Krasnow, New York Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440238249
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 1/11/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Matthews is the author of many books for young readers in his native England.
From the Hardcover edition.
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First Chapter

1

Entrances

Life's really weird, you know? You have to live it forward, but it only makes sense when you look back on it, and even then you can't be certain exactly why you did what you did. You might have been influenced by all kinds of things: the weather, dreams, genes, hormones, other people. The trickiest part is working out who you were at the time, and I'm here to tell you that the more you analyze yourself, the more you're not there.

OK, I know what you're thinking—This guy must be some kind of psycho!—right?

Wrong.

Let me give you a for instance. Say you're mucking about in school one lunchtime, and a window gets broken, and you're caught. Imagine you're explaining to a teacher what happened. Now you go home and tell your parents about it. You don't talk to them in the same way, do you? Later on, one of your best mates drops by and you give them Version Three, using words you wouldn't dare use to your parents or to a teacher. Each time, you're a slightly different person.

So which one is you?

In fact there's a whole load of different people inside you, like a collection of masks. You change your mask according to the situation you find yourself in. Sorting out which one is really you is practically impossible, because the person it's hardest to be honest with is yourself. And here's the spooky bit: maybe when you take all the masks off you're not anybody; maybe you're as blank as the white stuff inside a glue stick.

I'm writing this because I'm sorted now, but I lost it for a while and I want to understand why. To do it properly I have to put in everything—daydreams, fantasies, nightmares, thelot—or it won't be real. Actually, it wasn't real, that's the whole point; but the way it was unreal was pretty awesome.

The only reason I'm willing to tell you about it is that you don't know me. This is like getting online with someone in Australia: you can tell them things about yourself that you wouldn't tell anybody else, because they can't spread them around to anyone who matters. In fact, if you like, you can make out that you're the person you'd like to be, instead of the person you are. This isn't lying, exactly—more like a game of Let's Pretend—but it's not exactly telling the truth, either.

Of course I could be doing that—pretending that all this happened to me when it didn't. You'll never know and it doesn't matter. Reality is like beauty and ugliness, it all depends on how you look at things, and how you look at things depends on the person you are.

Whoever that might be.

2

The whining schoolboy

It was sunset, one of those blazing red jobs with magenta clouds that were orange underneath. I was riding a black stallion along a beach. The tide was out and the beach was deserted, miles of white sand curving out to a rocky headland. The wind was whipping through my hair and whistling in my ears. I was totally free—no stress, no hang-ups, nowhere I had to be, nothing else I ought to be doing—and it was brilliant. . . .

Then the alarm clock woke me up.

The feeling of freedom went—ZAPPO!— and I was me again: fifteen, in Year Ten, with a load of course work like you wouldn't believe. It was the start of another thrill-packed school day and I had French first lesson. What kind of sadist designs a timetable that has French for first lesson? Most kids are still having trouble speaking English at that time of the morning.

So, did I leap out of bed, do twenty push-ups, look at myself in the wardrobe mirror and say, "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better," or did I pull the covers over my head to try to get back to the beach?

Guess.

Eventually Dad shouted up the stairs, "Robert, it's nearly half past! Shift yourself!"

This is what he always shouts; at least it's better than "Rise and shine!"

Twenty minutes later I was showered, dressed, downstairs and raring to crawl back into bed.

Dad was mixing American biscuits—you know, the ones that are like scones with no sugar in them? He was wearing a butcher's apron, and the bits of dough stuck to his hands made him look as though he had a skin dis-ease.

I went to the fridge, grabbed the orange juice and was just raising it to my lips when Dad said, "Don't even think of drinking it straight from the carton. Get a glass."

"Mum up?"

"She left early. She has a meeting in London at nine. A Dutch company wants to . . ."

I turned off my ears. I didn't want to know all the details, and neither do you. It goes: Mum runs a software design business, Dad is one of her employees. Mum swans off all over the place wheeler-dealing, Dad mainly works from home. They're supposed to split the housework between them, but Dad cops most of it—like, my old man is a New Man.

When Dad had been through it down to the last megabyte, I said, "Sounds good!"

Dad was rolling out dough by this time. He said, "Anything you need?"

"A passionate affair, a million pounds and a life would be nice."

Dad sighed. He has this way of sighing that says, "Communicating with other people is incredibly time-consuming and tedious and I wish, just once, that I could be given a straightforward answer." Which is pretty good for a sigh, you have to admit.

"I meant that I have to go shopping this morning, so is there anything you'd like me to get?"

"I could use some mouthwash—but don't buy that blue stuff again, it sucks. I prefer the regular brand."

Dad gave me a look. "Sucks? Regular? Are you turning into an American, Robert?"

"I'm just your regular teenager, Pops," I said. "Blame the media and peer pressure."
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