Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus the scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity.
But Ren has been living a double life.
Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as him. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence.
But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for.
Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too.
Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.
Testosterone was a medical necessity because it was all that made living inside this body bearable.
She didn’t get that. Nobody did.
If only they knew what it felt like, being held hostage by your own skin.
“Tam, you don’t know her.”
“That’s why I can see her clearly. Your eyes are clouded by history.”
I’ve literally just finished reading this one so I’m still caught up in it a bit. Please bear with me. I’m going to put a trigger warning on this one for having some doxxing/stalking. Usually, I wouldn’t for such a small amount of related content but it triggered me so there you have it.
A few of the secondary characters were brought forward from Elliot Wake’s previous novel Black Iris, which he wrote as Leah Raeder. That novel was absolutely brilliant by the way and you should check it out. (You can find my review of it here. It’s a little less rambley than this one.) Anywho, the characters Laney, Blythe, and Armin carry over from the Black Iris novel so I already kind of had a feel for who they were. Because of that, I won’t speak to secondary character development when it comes to them. I will say I honestly have zero clue why Armin is there because Laney did not seem like she’s the forgiving type at all, given her propensity for exacting long-game revenge. But, there you have it.
The new secondary characters (Ellis, Tasmin, and Ingrid) were developed by casting a certain light on them through the lens of Ren and how he sees or knows them. This adds into the storyline and overall theme of “nothing is what it seems” and gives the book a more realistic feel. I feel like this development method was especially appropriater in getting to know Tamsin and Ingrid and how they play off of each other.
Ren. Where to begin? As a cisgender person, I haven’t experienced that unbearability, that wrongness. So, when Ren explained it in such a heartbreakingly honest way, I had to put the book down for a few minutes. Even now I’m still emotional about it, especially thinking of all the individuals out there who are trans, fluid or nonbinary who are forced by society or family or friends to be stuck in a body that feels like a hostage situation. That feels unbearable. Through Ren’s development as a character, I got to see that transgender individuals still have trouble post-transition. That there are people who are actively against being trans. I had to google TERFs with the hope that they were another bit of fiction created by a brilliant author. Sadly and disappointingly, I discovered they are real. But I’ve lost track of myself… Ren is beautifully developed, but that’s easy to expect from an ownvoices piece. It’s easy to expect from this author.
The world development fell a little short this time I thought but having read Black Iris I didn’t have much trouble with it. I would suggest reading Black Iris before reading Bad Boy for that world building reference but also because there’s a section of Bad Boy that spoils literally the whole story of Black Iris. I know I’m ranting a bit now because I’ve run out of characters in my phone notes and had to start a new one to continue. You were forewarned.
The story was well paced and flowed pretty well from page to page. I especially love how Elliot sneaks in all those plot twists. I lost count of how many times this story made me cover my mouth and think OH MY GOSH!! I really enjoyed it from beginning to end. I was perfectly comfortable with the ending of the story… until I read the Acknowledgements. Then I cried like a baby and hugged the book.
Overall, I rate Bad Boy 4 out of 5 bookworms.
Don’t just take my word for it. Order a copy of Bad Boy and enjoy it for yourself! A few places you can go to get your hands on a copy are:
- Amazon US
- Amazon UK
- Books-A-Million (US)
- Barnes and Noble (US)
- Waterstones (UK)
- Book Depository
- your local bookstore or local library
For more information about Elliot Wake and his work, visit his website.
* EDIT: I removed the -ed suffix from transgender. I did not know it was offensive and I am so sorry if my use of it harmed anyone. Thank you so much for telling me so I could fix it!