Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Damon Bryce and Alex Nichols have been together for two years and while things have not always been easy, they remain deeply in love. But Alex has a secret, one that she has been afraid to tell Damon because she is sure it will cost her his love. Alex Nichols is a shifter, one of a small percentage of the population able to switch genders at will. Shifters are discriminated against, considered less than equal by the rest of the “static” population. Being known as a shifter could cost Alex not only Damon but her job as well so Alex kept silent. Then she is drugged and a black market implant surgically inserted to prevent her from shifting. Now Alex has become a static, a one gender person, but in her male form. The truth is out and the ramifications for Alex are crushing.
Damon is deeply in love with his girlfriend Alex. Then he finds out that Alex is a shifter in the worst way possible for them both, when he confronts a man in his girlfriend’s apartment and finds out that man is Alex. Not only has Alex lied about who she is but now that Alex is male, Damon feels bereft of his fiance and best friend too. Damon has always thought of himself as straight. He still loves Alex, just not in the same way he used to. Damon won’t abandon Alex to face the decisions ahead of him alone. The surgery to remove the implants is both costly and dangerous. And Alex’s insurance won’t cover the procedure. Damon gives Alex the support he needs but can Damon give Alex all the support in every way possible that Alex wants?
Alex must decide to accept being forever a static male or to try for the expensive surgery and the slim chance that he will be able to shift once more. As Alex faces an uncertain future, Damon must decide if he is able to love Alex, the person inside the body Alex is in, including a male one. So much about their future is risky and unpredictable. Can their love surmount all obstacles including gender? Alex and Damon are about to find out.
LA Witt’s Static is not only one of the best stories I have read this year, it is also one of the most timely. We live in an era where gender issues, especially those of transgender people, are prominent both in the media and the judicial system. New laws are being written daily to promote equality for transgendered people and those of gender fluid identities. And for every new law written and steps forward, there is an equal number legislated to oppose those measures and gender equality. In my opinion, the most important weapons in the battle for equality for LGBTQ community are knowledge, education, and awareness. Static by LA Witt brings that knowledge and awareness home in a story that renders the reality of gender and gender based issues beautifully, factually and emotionally.
I have always admired the author’s ability to create living, breathing characters that resonate with her readers but in Damon, Alex, Jordan, Sam,and Tabby, shifters and trans characters, LA Witt has gone farther, delved deeper with her characters so as to give us such fully actualized people, depicted so psychologically and physically real that we never question not only the authenticity of a shifter gender but their universe as well.
Just the beginning of the book is so emotionally devastating as Damon confronts a stranger in his girlfriend’s apartment, already assuming the worst about the situation. The reader is thrown into the anguish of the moment along with Damon and Alex. All the fear, anger, hurt, betrayal, confusion of both people is revealed in painstaking detail leaving the reader transfixed by their anger as well as love for one another. Witt uses alternating points of view from Damon and Alex to pull the reader into their thoughts and feelings as the characters change and adapt to the events around them. This format forces us to look at the situation with the emotions and perspective of both characters. As the implant and it’s ability to freeze Alex into one gender impacts each person, we see not only Alex reeling from the reality of a one gender existence but also Damon’s (and ours) inability to truly understand what that means for Alex mentally, physically as well as emotionally. Can anyone who is “static” ever truly understand the both the physiological and psychological dynamics of the transgendered or gender fluid community? I am not sure but the author’s narrative goes a long way towards furthering that understanding and acceptance. Here is Jordan, a shifter friend of Damon’s trying to help him see a part of the situation that Alex is going through:
Most statics have no frame of reference. No way to understand what its like putting on high heels when your minds wants to be male or getting a hard-on when you are itching to be female. And don’t even get me started on the body having a period while the brain is male,” She tapped her thumb on the blotter a few times, then went on. “It’s hard to explain, but….well, you know that feeling when you’ve been wearing a pair of dress shoes half the day, and they start getting uncomfortable? And then they get to the point where they’re so fucking miserable, you can’t think of anything except taking them off?”
“Now imagine that pair of shoes is your whole damned body, and now there’s an implant that won’t let you take off those shoes. If I had to guess, that’s what this is like for Alex.”
That is an accessible and useful way to start Damon and the reader along the path to understanding part of terrible pain the implant is inflicting upon Alex. And although Alex is focus of the implant’s destructive design, we also feel Damon’s pain and confusion as he tries to accept that his “female” fiancé is now and perhaps permanently male, something this very straight man never thought he would have to deal with. All the internal arguments, all the justifications and excuses he offers himself when he thinks of jettisoning his relationship with Alex are laid out for us to examine and work through ourselves. Is the person the body they inhabit? Is it their body we love? Or do we love the person inside no matter what exterior they present to us. It is an old and yet relevant argument. And we watch as Damon has to find his own answers to that question, something that Alex realizes as well:
“I knew full well this was a lot for him. It was quite possibly as difficult for him to accept that I was a shifter as it was for me to accept that I was now static.”
Just one of many powerful moments in a story full of them, strung along like pearls on a necklace that only gets more exquisite and individually unique upon closer observation and inspection.
Witt also brings in different elements of society to reflect the current status and society’s perceptions of shifters within that culture. Alex’s implant is the result of her mother’s and her mother’s pastor’s actions. Just like those ministries who believe that they can “de gay” a homosexual through interventions and horrific ex gay therapies (now being banned in certain states), Alex’s mother and stepfather are members of a radical fundamentalist faith who believe they are doing “God’s will”. If these characters come across as horribly real, it’s only because we have heard them in our media espousing their beliefs with nauseating fervor. Their actions and beliefs are chilling whether they are in fiction or on our cable news.
This is a love story, where one’s perception of love undergoes as fundamental change as one does transforming from one gender to another. The romance is slow, sweet and absolutely rewarding.
I loved this story and cannot recommend it enough. Consider Static and its great cover one of Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2014 in a year that has just gotten started.
Cover by LC Chase. What an incredible cover, it’s riveting and gorgeous. Perfect in every way. One of the best of 2014.
ebook, 283 pages
Published January 20th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published June 17th 2011)