Book review: Elliot Page's timely debut memoir 'Pageboy' is powerful, humanizing

  • "Pageboy" by Elliot Page.

    "Pageboy" by Elliot Page. Courtesy of Flatiron Books

Posted6/7/2023 6:00 AM

"Pageboy" by Elliot Page (Flatiron Books)

Look, I admire Elliot Page as much as the next LGBTQ+ person and was swooning just as hard over this incredible cover and the mystery around the hush-hush book with the super-private advanced copies. In the end, it didn't live up to the hype.


But it's better that it doesn't, because it humanizes the larger-than-life subject.

"Pageboy," the highly anticipated debut memoir from trans actor, director and producer Elliot Page, begins by warning that the book follows a nonlinear narrative "because queerness is intrinsically nonlinear." The story flits from memory to memory, following a thread that crisscrosses his life in all its comedy and tragedy and mundanity. There are awkward teen parties, wild surprise car-chase stunts and kids kicking the soccer ball around the yard.

Page reads as a normal guy telling a meandering story that often dips into intimate, raw and powerful anecdotes.

Growing up splitting his time between divorced parents, Page describes a childhood that amounts to death by a thousand cuts. These come from bullies at school, toxic family dynamics, a stalker, and a reoccurring lack of support and understanding.

The bad is presented alongside the good. A tense emotional scene with his father is interrupted by a flashback to a family outing at the same spot, climbing up to see a spectacular view, then getting a scoop of Moon Mist. And he includes the background you need -- look no further than the next line to find that Moon Mist is a Nova Scotia-specific ice cream flavor.

That's just one of numerous instances in which Page drops tidbits of fascinating knowledge, niche cultural insights and little-known historical background.

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If you're looking for a tell-all, know that Page respects people in their own journeys and leaves many of his former lovers and hookups unnamed. At the same time, he reveals intimate details about his relationship with people like actor Kate Mara, whose name appears in the acknowledgments among a list of friends Page reached out to while writing the book.

Page candidly describes time after time when people mistreated him, a long string of awful vignettes. Sexual assault is outlined clinically, slurs and verbal abuse repeated verbatim.

But the same candid verbiage applies to happy times, too, like when he first tastes fresh, homegrown produce at the Lost Valley while learning to live sustainably.

On the whole, reading "Pageboy" is like listening to a friend.

And by the time you reach the end, when Page thanks people for their support, it's impossible to miss the truth in his words: "I wouldn't be typing this right now if it weren't for you and your care."

Between the timely release of "Pageboy" at the start of Pride Month and the growing onslaught of legislation targeting trans rights, now is an excellent time to read this humanizing and well-written memoir.

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