Our narrator, whose birth certificate name is mentioned so few times I can't remember or find it, learns what being gay means when Ellen Degeneres comes out. He learns what being transgender means when a girl brings an article on it to a GSA meeting. But his real education about gender, sex, love, and identity comes from Amy Wagner, a girl he befriends at school who quickly becomes his best friend, his first significant crush, the taker of his virginity, his re-christener, and indeed, so much that her increasingly inconstant treatment of him drives the book to a shocking climax.
Trigger warnings for suicide and extremely dubious consent.
I Know Very Well How I Got My Name is short, and a little bit oddly structured--we get Dean's childhood, his relationships with his father, mother, grandmother, cats, and friends besides Amy, but it ends abruptly before most of Dean's transition even happens, just as he's putting together a plan to effect it. This is probably due to the fact that this book is a prequel, and forced into its structure by that of the first book, Refuse, which I will read next. The characterization was expertly handled--the focalization during the childhood years clearly showed a child's point of view without using babyish language that would annoy the reader and without rough transition. It's tempting to tell the entire story from the point of view of looking back on the past, but telling a story-of-my-life tale in complete present tense requires skill. The reader can see how bad Amy is for Dean without, at least in my case, losing sympathy for Dean over his inability to see it too. I will definitely be reading the next book.