Saturday, May 20, 2023

Joy to the World

Shappley, Kai and Bunker, Lisa. Joy, to the World
May 9, 2023 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Joy and her friend Maxput together a Sparkle Squad with Steph (Max's friend) to practice cheers so they can all make the cheer squad at their school in Appleton, Texas. Joy has always loved cheer, and has recently moved to town so that her mother can find a job, since her father left when she and her brother Will were very young. Things are going well, and all three make the squad. Joy even successfully choreographs some routines, and is feeling in her element when a parent complains. Joy is a trans girl, but has been "living in stealth" for her own safety. Not only does she get removed from the team, but she has nasty comments made to her, and learns about legislation in Texas that would be damaging to the trans community. With the help of new friends from the LGBTQIA+ community like Aunt Caroline and Kai Shappley, Joy finds ways to get her message out about being accepted for who she is. She also manages to find a community, and get the support of her friends. 
Strengths: Given all of the negative experiences facing trans children, it's good to see a book that doesn't shy away from these but does show positive progress being made. The portrayal of cheerleading in Texas  was interesting, since it seems to differ a bit from cheer in Ohio; we've had a handful of boys on the squad over the years, so there wouldn't have been an issue with Joy being on the team, even for a very evil principal who misgenders her. We have also had several trans students, and they seem to be accepted by other students, although I certainly don't know everything they've experienced at school. Cheerleading is always of interest, so it's good to add some diversity to the portrayal of the sport in middle grade literature. 
Weaknesses: The style of writing felt oddly distant, and it was odd to read Joy saying things like "Kai Shappley is totally amazing and I love her," when Shappley is listed as an author. I'm sure that collaborating can be a tricky business, and it was good to see Bunker involved. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed Bunker's titles, Zenobia July and Felix YZ or Lukoff's Different Kinds of Fruit.

No comments:

Post a Comment