Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Best Liars in Riverview

Thomspon, Lin. The Best Liars in Riverview
March 8th 2022 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

It's been Joel and Aubrey's tradition to have a camp out on the last day of school, so they have one on the last day of 6th grade, even though the day was a difficult one. When Joel goes missing from his home in Riverview, Kentucky, Aubrey's story is that they decided not to sleep out, and they both went home, but she has a lot more information that she's not sharing with anyone. Joel was teased at school, which was an ongoing issue, but it was the comment by an office worker about "what does a kid like him expect?" that hurt even worse than the horrible slur aimed at him for being gay. Aubrey doesn't tell anyone about the raft that the two have been building, and when she finds that it is missing, she has a good idea of where he has gone. Her older sister is supposed to be watching her, as the town is searching for her friend, but she takes off with her friend, Mari, who knows what it is like to be considered different in their small and conservative town, since she has struggled since moving from a larger city with her two mothers. Aubrey also isn't very comfortable in her own skin, and is coming to terms with the fact that she doesn't exactly feel like a girl. She and Joel have skirted around these uncomfortable topics, but have never really discussed the implications of the differences that they are feeling. Will Aubrey and Mari be able to find Joel, and will the two friends be able to process their new realities with the help of their families and friends? 
Strengths: Aubrey and Joel have a very supportive friendship that has allowed them to live in an environment that is not overly tolerant to differences. It's good to see that Aubrey also has a good friend in Mari, and that her sister and parents are generally supportive as well. The Kentucky small town setting is well described, and the people are not depicted as inherently evil; everyone is very concerned for Joel's safety, even though some people at school have given him a hard time. The outdoor adventure aspect adds an element of suspense and excitement to theis tale of identity.  
Weaknesses: In an ideal world, LGBTQIA+ stories wouldn't be so fraught with problems, but that's not everyone's reality. This shouldn't be the only type of story for middle grade readers representing gay or transgender children, but it is a good choice to show the more problematic side of these identifications.
What I really think: A good addition to middle grade collections with LGBTQIA+ representation along with books like Pancholy's The Best at It, Barakiva's One Man Guy, Dee's Star Crossed, and Gephart's Lily and Dunkin and others. 
Ms. Yingling

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