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From the Comfort of their Favorite Armchair
  May 25, 2001

Today's Featured Author - Zoe Burgess

by: Kelly Ann Rogers 

Zoe Burgess has created a wonderfully clever and touching teenage world in "The Dream", a multipart story, which unfortunately has not seen any new chapters for a number of months now. I am sure that Zoe’s many enthusiastic fans are as disappointed about this as I am, but when last heard from, Zoe was headed back to her studies and we can only hope that she emerges soon.

"The Dream" is about a teenage boy named Peter who has always believed that he was a girl named Rebecca. As is now pretty standard for stories about TG teens. Peter is the special victim of the school bully, who finally goes too far, leading to a set of events that lead to Rebecca’s coming out.

Although the circumstances of her emergence are painful for Rebecca, that she finally does come out is fortuitous because it allows her to experience her femininity as she meets new friends, deals with old ones who are just meeting Rebecca after years of knowing Peter, and as she struggles with her feelings for the a boy who knew her as Peter.

These events unfold at a leisurely pace and its individual scenes are well developed and described. One reads this story not so much for its plot line, which is not particularly imaginative, as for the wonderfully touching world Zoe Burgess has created, a big part of it existing only inside of Peter and Becca’s mind. They just can’t stop themselves from thinking, and we can hear them, which is a real treat because their powers of self-observation are what gives this delightful story a good deal of its charm.

Both Peter and Becca analyze things before they happen, while they happen and after they happen so there is often a real-time stream of consciousness mental narration by the main character that takes place in parallel with the narrative of the story. And Peter and Becca’s stream of consciousness is just a delight to wade in. It is witty, irreverent, pointed, ironic, self-reflective, punishing, sad, and altogether a treat. I dare you not to laugh out loud.

But that’s not all. Zoe has created a world of three-dimensional characters who display all the pain, wit, frustration, and overripe emotions that so characterize adolescence. We really do get to know Peter’s and Becca’s friends and they come alive for us through excellent dialogue and in their wry observations of the world around them. This is as it should be, because this really is a story of characters more than anything else.

The Dream isn’t perfect, the story line is thin, it’s pacing is slow, It’s teenaged characters are a bit too bright, insightful, and emotionally sensitive. To top it off, the whole thing is just too perky. Indeed, this story is not at all unlike Ellen Hayes’ "The Saga of Tuck" and Dawn DeWinter’s "...Moped" in that all three are populated by the overly bright, precocious teenagers we all wish we could have been.

Unfortunately, the irrepressible optimism and light heart of this story make it a little too difficult to really feel the pain, frustration, and fear that the teenage characters express. Thus, the angst that accompanies Rebecca’s emergence is not nearly as palpable as the joy.

But in a way, these weaknesses are part of the story’s strength as well, because what we get in the end is served up with a wonderfully light touch that makes "The Dream" more like a light summer desert than a filling winter dinner. But it is a mighty tasty dessert and if you go in expecting to be entertained rather than hoping to find the deeper meaning in your own existence, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll have a ball, hanging out with Peter, Rebecca, and their friends.

Late update! Your intrepid reporter actually emailed Zoe to see what’s up. She’s still hard at work in school and with her other responsibilities, but promised to add a few more chapters soon. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

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by: Lisa Elizabeth

ZoŽ has written two stories here at Storysite. One is a multipart story titled 'The Dream' and the other is a short story titled 'Sunday Morning'. I feel that each story deserves it's own review.

'The Dream' is the story of a high school geek and his friends. He has the normal geek type problems along with being the punching bag for the school bully. To add to the problem he has always wanted to be a girl. His friends concoct a plan to get the bully off his back by having him dress as a girl and get the bully into a compromising situation. Photos should insure his safety. The dressing and going out lead to the realization that 'Rebecca' is the real person and Peter is the facade. A friend, Karla, convinces Rebecca to go to a party and shopping. This is where the story and life get interesting. A much more relaxed Rebecca has established a relationship with Paul. Now Paul has found out and is confused. Peter's best friend, Will, also knows and somewhere in the back of things you think that Will is attracted to Rebecca too.

The story stops here and leaves you wondering how Rebecca will handle all of these life changing revelations and if Will does like her. I sincerely hope that Zoe will continue the story.

The second story, 'Sunday Morning', is written from the viewpoint of a lover. This lover is a lesbian and finds that her one-night-stand is pre-op TS. The rest of the story goes on to tell of the trials and inner conflict a lover of such a person would have. It is quite an interesting viewpoint and should give all TG people a point or two to ponder.

Zoe writes in a style that is a little awkward to get used to. She lets the character make a statement, then asks the hidden question as an aside. Since she is from New Zealand there are slang terms and colloquialisms that I was not familiar with. I did break out my copy of 'Jenny Jane Pope's Britionary' in order to get a better idea of what was going on. It did help some, however, some of the terms, you will have to gain their meaning from the context of the material. This is probably just the difference in semantics between New Zealand and Mother England. Once you become accustomed to her writing style, the stories are very enjoyable.

Give her a read, you might learn a little about yourself and a country other than your own!


Editor - Heather Sinclair


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