George by Alex Gino

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georgeGeorge by Alex Gino
Scholastic, 2015.

10 year-old George is a girl in the body of a boy. As her class puts on a performance of Charlotte’s Web, George finds a connection with Charlotte that gives her the courage to tell her family and close friend that she’s transgender.

George faces a plethora of different reactions. Her best friend, Kelly, is initially unsure but then embraces her revelation with enthusiasm. Her mother, again ambivalent if not hostile to start with, explains that if she was the ‘ordinary’ sort of gay, she’d feel OK about it, but she is concerned about her well-being: “The world isn’t always good to people who are different. I just don’t want you to make your road any harder than it has to be.”

At school, the responses from the adults varies – her teacher doesn’t show any understanding, though the principal does: “You can’t control who your children are, but you can certainly support them.” The other students have mixed, often negative, reactions, from uncomprehending to contempt.

George/Melissa is a great role model for transgender tweens, or indeed any tween that feels different. Her courage and determination are nicely drawn, and her certainty about her gender in the face of others’ questioning will encourage others.

This is obviously a very au courant topic, and it’s an engaging tale intended and appropriate for upper elementary/lower middle school kids. But here’s my problem – this is an important and significant book, but I just didn’t find it that well-written – it’s occasionally clunky and, other than George, the characters feel like they only exist to express an opinion of George’s gender (though, don’t forget, I was reading an ARC, it may have been tightened up for publication). If this were a realistic tween cisgender novel, I’d give it three stars and move along. But because of its subject matter, I feel it deserves more attention than that, and would recommend it for all library collections for elementary and middle school kids.

Thanks to Scholastic and Edelweiss for the digital review copy.

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