Polonsky, Ami. Gracefully Grayson.
November 4th 2014
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Grayson has lived with his aunt and uncle in Chicago ever since the death of his parents in a car accident when he was four. He fights a bit with his older cousin, and has trouble fitting in at school, so he's glad when he meets Amelia and they seem to get along. The two start spending time together, frequenting thrift stores where Grayson looks for shirts that are shiny and long and seem like dresses, because he is not comfortable in traditional boys' clothing. When his dynamic language arts teacher, Finn, announces that there will be a play, Grayson is excited to try out for the main role of Persephone so he can have a reason to wear a dress in public. This causes some backlash. His aunt is concerned for Grayson's safety, and is angry at the teacher for awarding Grayson the part. His uncle wants to allow Grayson to embrace his true self, but is also concerned. When Grayson's grandmother dies, a pile of letters from Grayson's mother resurfaces, and the family finds out that even as a small boy, Grayson preferred skirts and identified himself as a girl. Thinking it was a reaction to the trauma of his parents' death, the family ignored this, and Grayson learned to hide his true feelings. The play causes any number of problems, including Grayson getting beaten up, but in the end, understanding and supportive adults help Grayson to start to deal with his issues of gender identity.
Strengths: This is the only book that I can think of about a transgendered tween, and it is written in a way that shows the difficulties but also provides hope. The issue with Finn is realistically addressed as well. The supportive adults shown a good mix of concern, and Grayson's friendship with Amelia is interesting.
Weaknesses: This is a highly philosophical book, and so rather a slow read. Not much happens except for the play, and books about acting and the theater are not at all popular with my students. I also thought that Grayson's reasons for feeling that he was really female weren't convincingly described. Instead of being a loner who finally found a friend who was a girl, it would have been more apparent if Grayson had good friends who were boys, but he had trouble connecting with them on deeper levels. Aside from his love of dresses and skirts (and the fact that Amelia and her friends wore them seems unrealistic to me, since girls at my school hardly ever wear skirts), there weren't a lot of other reasons described for Grayson's feelings.
Kuklin, Susan. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
February 11th 2014 by Candlewick Press
I wish that this didn't have bad language in it, since it is an interesting and valuable insight into diversity. However, the repeated f-bombs have me sending this right to the high school.
Of note: This made Grayson's feelings seem usual. I find it a little sad that gender stereotypes are so ingrained in our society that people feel that if they have feminine qualities, they can't remain male, or vice versa. As with any issues of diversity, since I come to this issue from a straight, cisgendered perspective, I feel I can't really opine on this topic.