Book Review | A Murder Over A Girl, by Ken Corbett

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Short Review: Ken Corbett transplants readers into the Courtroom 41, to track Brandon McInerney, a teenager on trial for murdering his trans classmate. It’s a fascinating, yet emotionally taxing, examination of how identity informs and shapes courtroom politics.


In 2008, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney shot his classmate twice in the head at close range while in the computer lab. The classmate, Lawrence “Larry” King, was a flamboyant brown skinned student who had recently made the decision to go by the name Leticia. Flaunting his gender exploration within the strict bounds of a school dress code, Larry had begun recently wearing makeup to school, and baby-heeled boots along with his shirt and slacks.

After hearing about Letrice’s story, Ellen Degeneres had the following to say:

The facts are somewhat jumbled (likely because this is soon after the shooting), but the emotions are quite real—it’s a theme that will follow throughout the trial as well. First hand accounts of Brandon and Larry’s interactions remained limited, as Brandon refused to discuss anything pertaining to the shooting during or after the trial. Brandon’s homophobia, however, was undisputed. He’d stated repeatedly that he specifically hated Larry, reciting a lengthy list of threats against him to friends and classmates.

For this reason, Ken Corbett, a well-published gender scholar, took interest in the case. In A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, and Junior High, Corbett is a uniquely qualified guide through the extended (and endlessly frustrating) trial. A psychotherapy and psychoanalysis expert by training, he’s able to weed through testimonies rife with pandering in order to help the reader discern the facts. As a gender scholar focused on exhibitions of traditional masculinity, Corbett is further qualified to discuss how the fragility of masculinity and heteronomativity played pivotal roles in McInerney’s trial.

Regardless of one’s views on transgender rights, it’s a frustrating trial for an endless number of reasons. Corbett’s supplemental coffeehouse interviews with those close to the victim and the murderer illustrate the degree to which both boys were failed by the teachers, parents, and friends surrounding them. Using the perspective provided by each witness, Corbett forms a narrative critical of not only Brandon’s role, but of society’s as well. Like all great books, A Murder Over a Girl is not solely about the characters within its pages—eight years removed from the crime, it continues to point fingers at a society that still cannot seem figure out where trans people should use the restroom.It continues to point fingers at a society that continues to excuse lynchings motivated by the hyperbolic fear of an “other.”

Trans Bathroom
Coincidentally, this came up on my Facebook timeline yesterday.

It’s unfortunate that I hadn’t finished reading Ken Corbett’s A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High before publishing my list of 6 Best Reads of 2016 (so far) on Tuesday, because it would have been a strong contender. Timely and extensively researched, the only negative aspects were the unnecessary personal anecdotes Corbett inserted. Even those, however, served to humanize an author with a deeply intimate connection to the story he watched unfold. I gave this book 4/5 stars, and have already recommended it to friends who are deeply entrenched in gender studies. I’d even recommend it to book clubs willing to take on a heavy read that will stick around for long minutes after it’s placed back on the shelf.

For those who would like to learn more about the case, I also refer you to the Newsweek longread about it here, and Janet Mock’s commentary here.

*I chose to use the name Larry for the sake of continuity.

Edit: I didn’t know this when I posted the review, but March 31st is Trans Visibility Day. Happy Trans Day of Visibility!

Disclaimer: I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

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13 Comments

  1. Thank you for this enlightening review. I am certainly going to read this.

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    1. As always, thanks for reading! Read this book on a day when you’re not going to fall into a pit of depression at the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. […] A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, and Junior High, by Ken Corbett […]

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  3. That Ellen video had me choking up. 😥
    She mentioned that “Larry” was gay – was this perhaps before it was known Leticia was trans?

    I’m glad a legitimate gender scholar wrote this book and was able to treat the case with the respect and perspective that was necessary.
    I didn’t know about this case at all, so thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m thinking because at the time, there weren’t too many facts out. The trial didn’t happen until a couple years after the murder, so maybe the information just wasn’t there. But really, I’m just happy she mentioned it, because that’s a whole target audience that would have otherwise ignorant of the case as a whole.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You might want to check out the YA novel “When Everything Feels Like the Movies” by Raziel Reid. He wrote it as a reaction to the Larry King story, and it’s very well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I looked up this book and there seems to be a bit of contention surrounding it’s categorization as a YA novel. Do you think that just because people are touchy about the subject matter?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When it won the Governor General’s Award for children’s fiction, there was a lot of controversy about it, because people didn’t want their 12-year-olds to read it. But, of course, the children’s fiction category includes 14+. I wonder if that’s what you were reading about. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure it’s still classified as YA. For older teens though, I’d say.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And, yes, people are very touchy about the subject matter. All the more reason to read it, I say!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Omg the event .. its awful :O I’m thankful for your review not only it makes me discover a new book it also made me aware of new events in the world and thank you for that 🙂 !!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is an incredible and detailed review! I will definitely look into this book because it sounds like something I would be interested in learning about considering I’m extremely interested in current events and human rights 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, and yes! If that’s your interest, this is def the right book for you

      Liked by 1 person

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