Bad Boy: A Novel

Bad Boy: A Novel

by Elliot Wake


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“Wake presents an intense, suspenseful, and unusual tale of romantic suspense that will make readers question their perceptions of gender and relationships.” —Booklist (starred review)

A “fast-paced, mind-bending romantic thriller” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) about a transgender vlog star who struggles with a past that continues to haunt him as he sets out to prove that he’s not a “bad boy,” but something else entirely: a good man.

Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity.

But Ren has been living a double life.

Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as he is. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence. But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for. Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too.

Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.

Elliot Wake has written a “searingly modern game of cat and mouse” (L.S. Hilton, New York Times bestselling author) that “compels readers to question their conceptions about gender and desire” (Publishers Weekly). Darkly humorous and evocatively sexy, Bad Boy is romantic suspense at its finest.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501115011
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 12/06/2016
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Elliot Wake (formerly known as Leah Raeder) is a transgender author of four novels: Unteachable, Black Iris, Cam Girl, and Bad Boy. Aside from reading his brains out, Elliot enjoys video games, weightlifting, and perfecting his dapper style. He lives with his partner in Chicago.

Read an Excerpt

Bad Boy —1—

REN: Life is ineffably weird.

Hello, Internet. My name is Ren. Despite what my reedy voice and apple-dumpling cheeks might tell you, I’m a boy. A lost boy in the big city, trying to find myself. If you’re watching this, maybe you’re trying to find yourself, too.

Over the past year I’ve watched a thousand videos just like this one. Other guys talking to their laptops, isolated and afraid, launching their voices into the void like messages in bottles. We’re all stranded on the desert islands of ourselves, sending missive after missive and hoping someone will find us, and reply:

Message received.

[Jump cut.]

Guess I’ll give you the basics. I’m nineteen. College sophomore. Gender studies major. Yep, the only boy in class. That’ll be fun later, with a beard. I live with my best friend and we both live with the ghost of myself. You can’t shake a haunting unless you face it, so in the interests of exorcism and YouTube view counts I’m documenting my transition.

Today was my first day on testosterone.

Here’s how it works: You go to a gender therapist and say, “I feel like I’ve been given a life sentence, and the prison cell is my own skin.” You tell them the bars make a double X pattern. The prison uniform is a pointlessly wide pelvis and unnecessary breast tissue atop your pecs. It’s designed to dehumanize you. Make you feel both trapped in and disconnected from yourself. The therapist will say, “How long have you identified as a man?” And even though you don’t really feel like a man inside, but more of a boy, scared and confused and alone, you’ll say, “My whole life.” Because you want testosterone more than anything. You need it. To survive.

Then, with a bit of luck, they’ll sign a letter certifying you as genderfucked, and you’ll get T. The wonder drug. The problem-curing, life-fixing panacea.

I’m kidding. Testosterone isn’t going to fix my issues. It’ll cause a hundred new ones. Male-pattern baldness, BO, acne. I’ve done my research. Being a man isn’t all six-pack abs and sultry stubble. Honestly, manhood is pretty fucking unsexy.

But it’s the only thing I have left to try before I take a razor to my wrists.

[Jump cut.]

Some trans guys count their first day of T as their new birthday. So here I am, world. Your newest baby boy, born December 13. Sprung fully formed from my own forehead, Athena-style.

I’m a mythology nerd, and there’s this myth that speaks to me, haunts me . . .

This is, uh, kinda hard to talk about, actually. Maybe I—

[Clears his throat.]

My biggest issue with mythology is that it’s so steeped in rape. Most of the gods and kings were total shitlords who terrorized women. Other gods took pity and transformed those women into plants so they could escape sexual assault.

Let that sink in. Better to be a fucking plant than a woman in ancient Greece.

My relationship with mythology is cagey, but there’s this myth I’m obsessed with about a woman called Caenis. Like so many others, Caenis was raped by Poseidon. Afterward she asked to be changed into a man so she couldn’t be raped again. Apparently Poseidon drew the line at sodomy.

So Caenis became Caeneus, a fearsome warrior. A man so strong he couldn’t be harmed by normal weapons. To defeat him, a crafty centaur buried him beneath a mountain of logs. He’s still there, tossing the trunks aside one by one, clawing his way out. Nothing can stop him. Nothing can hold him down. Someday he’ll be free.

I’m Caeneus, if that wasn’t obvious.

[Clears his throat.]

My voice isn’t usually this hoarse. Two weeks ago, I put a belt around my neck and stepped off a chair in my closet. My best friend found me and performed CPR. No one knows how long I was deprived of oxygen. Not long enough for measurable brain damage, but long enough that I still don’t have sensation in my chest. Which is actually kind of nice. Lets me forget I have breasts.

[Jump cut.]

This is probably the thousandth trans-guy-taking-T video you’ve watched. You’re seeking answers, like me. Reassurance. Permission. You want to know if this is what you should do. If it’ll really make you happy, quiet that scream inside that no one else can hear.

I don’t know.

I’m not one hundred percent sure it’s right for me, either.

I just know something has to change. I have to change.

People make ugly choices to stay sane inside prison. When your body is the cell, it feels like your only freedom is to die. But that’s bullshit. There’s another way out. A safe way. See a fucking therapist, okay? Don’t be like me, don’t wait till it nearly kills you. I spent years hurting myself, cautiously, shallowly, trying to resist that final deep cut into a vein.

I hurt myself to remember: I am this body. As much as I hate it, it’s me.

I have to serve my time here. Make peace with it.

If I don’t, if I can’t—

[Jump cut.]

But I am. I’m taking back control.

No more self-harm. Now there’s a silver bullet of testosterone in my bloodstream, and I didn’t even have to beg a god. Thanks, Obamacare.

So this is it. The girl part dies. A little boy wakes up, confused and alone. Irrevocable changes are happening inside his cells and he’s stuck on the island of himself, sailing messages out into the wide blue nothing.

This is what they say:

Somebody, please listen.

My name is Ren. I’m one day old. I’m a lost little boy.

Please find me.

Customer Reviews

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Bad Boy: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Lisa-LostInLiterature More than 1 year ago
When I first found out that Elliot Wake (formally Leah Raeder) was writing another book, I knew it was a book that I wanted to read. I knew right away that I would learn quite a bit, as well as be entertained, as I am with all of his books. I have to say I did receive what I had hoped. This is the first book I’ve read that involved transitioning from a woman to a man, and I learned so much regarding this process. Not simply the action transitioning itself, but how it affects the person directly, as well as others in their life. This story was quite eye-opening and showed me a whole new side to this type of situation. What held me back a bit from rating this higher was that I felt there was quite a bit going on, and because of that I lost a bit from the different stories. First, we have the whole transitioning part for the MC, Ren, which I have to say was my favorite aspect of this story. I loved seeing the inner conflict, outer transformations, as well as others’ accepting or not accepting of Ren’s life decisions. I felt it was a very strong aspect of the story and was the part that kept my attention the most. What I wasn’t quite as interested in was the whole Black Iris gang part. And I have to be clear here, I believe this is because I have not read Black Iris. Because of my lack of knowledge of these characters, in the beginning I felt quite lost and it took me a bit to understand what their story is and how they all came together. I believe if I had read Black Iris, I would have enjoyed this story a bit more, having had the background necessary to know these characters intimately before going into this story. There was also a bit of a romance story line weaved in as well. I did like the romance, and seeing that side of Ren come out was really nice. Along with the romance, there was also quite a few different friendship plots that stuck out as well. Friends behaving badly, friends having trouble staying supportive through difficult times, etc. Just a whole lot going on, all in the matter of a rather short book. At times it just felt like there was too much going on. Overall, I thought this was another strong story by Elliot Wake and I’m so happy that he wrote this particular book when he did. As he’s going through transitioning himself in his real life, I felt the intimate connection he has to this story really brought it home for me. The details involving the physical transitioning itself, the mental impact on Ren and others, the emotional side, too… it was all there, raw, powerful, and made this story really stand out for me. I think a lot of people will really enjoy this story, especially if they’ve already read Black Iris and know those characters on a deeper level. I love when I find such diverse books in the community. Having some many different types of characters in one book is a major plus to me. To sum up, Bad Boy wasn’t quite as amazing to me as Cam Girl, but it was definitely still compelling, informative, and quite encouraging. I have a feeling I won’t be forgetting this story for a long, long time. (Thanks to Atria Books for the review copy!)