Greta Lafleur in Public Books:
Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl tells a series of stories that we already know, but it achieves its familiar ends through decidedly unfamiliar means. Andrea Lawlor’s first novel presents us with the queer young adulthood of Paul, who possesses a seemingly magical skill: the ability to change form, to will his body into whatever shape he would like it to take.
Beginning in Iowa City—where Paul and his best friend, Jane, share beer, coffee, and clothes as they commiserate about the challenges of being sexually ambitious young queer people in a small, Midwestern college town—Lawlor’s novel quickly removes to Michigan, to New York, to Provincetown, and to San Francisco, following Paul in his search for fun and experience throughout a geography familiar to many who were queer in the 1990s. And with every new setting, a new body: Paul proves a most effective sexual chameleon—jokingly referring to himself as a “replicant” and a “T-1000” (in the cultural idiom of the decade)—by changing form from leatherman to twink, femme dyke to punk faggot, depending on the social milieu and what seems most likely to get him laid.
Because of its locations, its desires, and its literary influences, this is a novel that creaks with the weight of familiarity; this is not a fault.