Book Review: The Big Reveal, by Eve Francis

Genre : Romance, Trans fiction

The Open Window, another book by Eve Francis, was such a good read that I jumped on the occasion and requested an ARC for The Big Reveal when it was put up on Netgalley. And am I not regretting this a single second. Its subject took me entirely by surprise— The description of the book being somewhat obscure so as to better keep its cards hidden. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you why this book moved me so much without spoiling it a bit (a very small bit, don’t worry : it’s revealed in the first eight pages I believe) : Samus, one of the two main characters, is a trans woman. I’ve been on the lookout for lesbian trans fiction but since Netgalley only classifies it as LGBTQIA, I didn’t expect that I’d find what I was looking for in this book. One of the best points of The Open Window for me was that it featured a fat lead character, and it seems Eve Francis is still in the process of making their work more and more inclusive, with Jackie being a person of color.

Big changes are coming in Samus Mallory’s (if you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, you’re right) life. She is now the sole teacher in her Fantasy Literature class, and as a firm believer in the idea that fantasy can change one’s life, she works towards helping her students dream big and create change. When she meets Jackie Vasquez, they quickly bond despite Samus’ fears that her being a trans woman will ruin everything. Jackie is a cosplayer who always cross-plays her characters, and while she’s not Samus’ student, their friendship and eventually their love will shed a new light on her life and open her eyes on her past as well as her future.

Both our characters are absolutely nerdy dears; Samus is the teacher anyone would probably enjoy having, while Jackie is a pretty cool math student slash cosplay seamstress. Their chemistry around board games and in general is great, and while I know very little about either board games or cosplay, I truly enjoyed getting glimpses of those worlds.

Through Jackie, we learn of Samus’ journey and the strong beliefs she formed while transitioning. Her understanding of fantasy, and the journey to self discovery it can initiate, is something whose importance I cannot stress enough. And I get why Samus believes the things she does. I get it because I was like her, a child wanting to be a girl, and not even knowing, not even beginning to grasp the idea that it was, in fact, possible. And while Jackie is not in Samus’ class, Samus’ drive will influence her to take a closer look at her conflicted history with femininity and masculinity, a conflict embodied by her smothering mother who has difficulty accepting that her daughter prefers masculine clothes to dresses.

While astonished that the book included a trans woman at first, I quickly realized that Eve Francis know their stuff. In retrospect it is no surprise: I learned while conversing with them that they are trans and a PHD student in trans literature— they thus have both first hand and academic knowledge of trans-identity. It is no wonder then that Samus is one of the trans character I’ve identified with the most in my whole life (though I admit to not reading books with trans characters very often). I dare say that most, if not all, trans people will see themselves in her character at time.

The awkwardness with which she tells Jackie that she’s trans, afraid that her identity will repulse her— It is something I’ve lived and will live again. Even her explanation of how she realized she was trans is the same as mine. Her first sex with Jackie, the discovery of their respective bodies and boundaries, all of these things contribute to making two genuine, authentic and deeply endearing characters. It isn’t often that I feel so emotionally involved in a book (I totally did not shed a happy tear at the end of the book, nope), and I really wish to see more of those two in the future.

There is one short sex scene towards the third quarter of the book, at the end of the tenth chapter. This is the second book I read from Eve Francis, and I strongly recommend anyone who is interested in trans people (and I do mean people, not politics) and who enjoys romance to read this one. It’s an indubitably solid romance and Eve Francis’s tight and comfortable writing serves it well.

The Big Reveal will be published on June 28th by Less Than Three Press, and can be ordered on the publisher's website.

Rachel Vigo is a would-be critical geographer from Paris (the one in France, not the one in Texas). She is an avid devourer of books and plays video-games far too much.