Gephart, Donna. Lily and Dunkin
May 3rd 2016 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Public library copy.
Tim feels like he is really a girl, and has felt this way from a very early age. His mother and sister support him, but his father is concerned that if Tim embraces his "real" self and dresses and acts like "Lily", he will get beaten up and made fun of. Lily is also mourning the death of his grandfather, and spends time in a tree that reminds him of his grandfather, but which is slated to be taken down in order for a new park to be built near the public library. Meanwhile, Norbert Dorfman has moved to town with his mother to live with his grandmother, who is a fitness instructor. Norbert hates his name, and when he meets Lily, she calls him Dunkin, thanks to his love of Dunkin' Donuts coffee and pastries. Norbert's father has suffered a mysterious illness and is ostensibly hospitalized, and Norbert is medicated for bipolar disorder, although he frequently skips the medication because he doesn't like the way it makes him feel. He tries very hard to become friends with the popular, basketball playing boys so that he doesn't have to worry about them bullying him, but he is not a great basketball player, and has trouble with his game both on and off of his medication. He also can't appear to be friends with Lily, who is the object of much of the popular boys' disdain and name calling. Eventually, though, Dunkin helps Lily in her attempt to save the tree, comes to terms with what really happened to his father, and decides to adhere to his recommended medical regimen. Lily's father comes around, and she starts the process of transitioning with his support.
Strengths: While this had a lot of sad topics that were addressed, it handled them in a positive, practical way. I thought that the treatment of Dunkin's dad, in particular, was well handled. Things happen, and the only way to deal with them is to dust oneself off and move on. The lack of wailing and hand wringing that has infested middle grade novels was a huge relief! Gephart is able to handle sad in a way that renders her books still very readable. I finished this one very quickly.
Weaknesses: I couldn't stop thinking about The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman by Meg Wolitzer! That's not a usual name to have it appear twice in middle grade novels. Also, like Gracefully Grayson or George, there's a lot of discussion about how Lily likes dresses, long hair and makeup, but not many other convincing reasons behind her gender identification.
What I really think: Again, surprisingly readable, although I have a feeling that teachers and librarians will like this more than students do. At least students won't find this painful.