The Sweet In-Between by Sheri Reynolds
If you haven’t read a novel by Sheri Reynolds, you’re not only missing out on her gorgeous, descriptive prose, but also her storytelling of underdog protagonists overcoming the ugliness of life. She is one of my all-time favorite writers, and I was pleased that her newest novel keeps to her writing style and themes, but adds a delicate twist to the story.
The “Sweet In-Between” follows Kendra (Kenny) as she comes of age amidst confusion about her sexuality and gender. After a local tragedy makes Kenny rethink her importance to her adoptive family, she decides to make herself indispensable to Aunt Glo, the girlfriend of her incarcerated father. Kenny knows she’s different—she binds her chest and cuts her hair short—but she also is desperate to fit in to a family that’s not really hers.
Reynolds tackles the issue of Kenny’s gender/sexuality delicately. Kenny is called a dyke (an unfamiliar word to her) and gender confused, but she doesn’t necessarily feel that she’s a lesbian. She also dresses like a boy and binds her chest, but being “trans” is beyond her realm of experience. She just knows she’s different.
Sheri Reynolds is a genius at creating complex female characters, and, while you could argue that Kenny isn’t necessarily female, there’s no question that she’s unique and memorable.