by Craig Silvey
Allen & Unwin, $32.99 pb, 432 pp
Honeybee, Craig Silvey’s highly anticipated new novel, his first since Jasper Jones (2009), chronicles the coming of age of fourteen-year-old transgender narrator Sam Watson, who was assigned male at birth. This is a story of desperate loneliness and fear, of neglect, family violence, betrayal, and self-disgust. But it is also one of love and solidarity, a celebration of the kindness of strangers who become family and friends.
Honeybee takes its place among other recent writing (from Charlotte Wood’s novel The Natural Way of the Things  to Jess Hill’s investigation of family violence in See What You Made Me Do ) that confronts deep-seated and deeply problematic aspects of Australian masculinity. Silvey adds to these representations a consideration of the link between the strict policing of a male/female binary and the physical brutality that – according to Sam’s stepfather, Steve – defines what it means to ‘be a fuckin’ man’.