I AM J by Cris Beam (Little Brown, March 2011) presents readers with a character who is transgender. J, as he prefers to be called, has never quite fit comfortably into his own skin. His parents expect him to be their perfect daughter. J cannot do that anymore. He needs to be "J." J must leave his one and all he has known in order to begin a new life. It is not a simple matter, either. Where does he fit in? Can he begin to become the person he was meant to be? Beam explores this and other questions in this novel that will need teachers and librarians and parents who will hand it off to teen readers. And do not think this is a book for just transgender kids. This is a book that will allow other readers to crawl inside J's skin and walk a mile in his shoes, too. There is little understanding sometimes and even more of a lack of empathy, I think. Here is a book that will provide both. It does not preach; it reveals. Add to that some helpful back matter, and here is a book that will make a difference in the reading lives of many teens. <540>
Possible reading ladder rungs: LUNA comes to mind immediately. If I were not so sleep deprived, I could come up with a handful of others. I will allow you to fill in my blanks.
Here are some suggestions from the comments: PARROTFISH (Wittlinger), JUMPSTART THE WORLD (RyanHyde), ALMOST PERFECT. Keep em coming.