The Pickled Mushroom

Book: Christine Fehér – Body | June 16, 2009

Title: Body. Leben im falschen Körper. (= Live/Living in the wrong body.)

Author: Christine Fehér

Date of publication: 2003

Original language: German

“Wie war das für dich, als du erfahren hast, dass ich… nun ja, also körperlich ein Mädchen bin?”

“Na ja, ein bisschen geschockt hat mich das schon. Schließlich war ich verknallt in dich.”

In meinem Hirn rattert es. Verknallt? Julian hat sich in mich als Jungen verknallt?

“Dann bist du also…”

“Schwul.”

~*~

“What was it like for you when you found out that I… well, that I’m physically a girl?”

“Well, truth to be told, I was a bit shocked. I had a crush on you, after all.”

It’s working in my brain. A crush? Julian had a crush on me as a boy?

“So you are…”

“Gay.”

Ulli likes listening to Green Day and Travis, has an older sister Patricia he sometimes clashes with and sometimes gets along with well and is keen on learning how to skateboard from Patricia’s boyfriend David. He’s like any normal teenager.

With one big difference: he’s trapped in the wrong body. He has always known he was a bit different, never liked playing with dolls and hated having to go when the other boys had contests about seeing who could pee the farthest. Ulli is actually short for the girl name Ulrike, instead of the slightly old-fashioned but masculine Ulrich as he would like it. His mother and all aunties and grannies insist that “Riekchen” should start dressing and behaving like a proper girl, she’s fifteen after all and needs to stop acting like a tomboy.

At the same time Ulli recognizes more and more that she is actually a he with some bits missing and instead some others in places where they shouldn’t be. Menstruation is a monthly nightmare, the breasts are hidden as well as possible under bandages and loose shirts. So far, everyone thinks he’s simply a tomboy, that it’s a phase that’s going to pass – but when he falls in love with Sandy, there’s no helping it: it can’t stay like this. What will his family, his classmates and Sandy say, when he wants to come out and live as a boy openly?

It has been a while that a book has captivated so much. I borrowed it at the library today around ten o’clock and just finished it shortly before seven o’clock, counting that I had a good deal of cooking and school to do in between. Admittedly, it’s only 180 pages long, but I devoured every single one with undivided attention.

Rarely have I met a heroine, or rather, hero, that I have loved as much as Ulli. I was in pain and outrage with him, I got all excited about Sandy and breathed deep sighs of relief when something went alright. I had to take a breath to keep from shouting when there was this ignorant talking of “a real lesbian, watch it, she’ll pounce you!” going on, and suffered incredibly with Ulli when it was that time of the month for him.

“Body” is incredibly realistic, heart-warming and straight-forward. I love how it is interspersed with scenes not directly belonging into the present plot. At first these bits are flashbacks of how Ulli was out playing with his other boyfriends while his sister played with her dolls, then later they switch to his dreams of how life would be as a man doing manly things and having a girlfriend. It almost broke my hard how desperate Ulli must wish for these dreams to come true. And even though I am perfectly happy being a girl myself, I could feel with him so much it hurt. How horrible must it be to have breasts and your period when all you want is to talk about chicks and play soccer with other guys?

I’m also absolutely in love with Julian. He is one of my favourite characters ever. He’s just that kind of easy-going side character that’s supportive without pushing into the middle too much, but always there. Besides, his helping Ulli is the most adorable thing I’ve read in a long time.

As I mentioned before, this book is an absolute page-turner that’s hard to tear yourself away from. I don’t know if it’s available in English, but I really hope it will be, as there’s a great need for more books of this kind out there. Anyone that likes a good read about teenage problems will love this! Usually I’m no big fan of all these “finding myself” teenage books out there, but Body was absolutely amazing.

Ich brauche ewig, um mich zu stylen. Hans’ Hemd bügele ich sogar, und anfangs mache ich dadurch sogar mehr Knicke und Falten hinein, als es vorher hatte. Patricia, die sich auf unserem alten Sofa im Wohnzimmer räkelt und mir zusieht, lacht sich scheckig und bietet mir ihre Hilfe an, doch ich habe auch meinen Männerstolz und lehne dankend ab.

~*~

It takes me ages to style myself. I even iron Hans’ shirt, and in the beginning I actually cause more crinkles and wrinkles than it had before. Patricia, who is lounging on our old couch in the living room and watching me, laughed her head off and offered me her help, but I’ve also got my manpride after all and decline with a thanks.

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