Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky. Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.
Grayson is lonely, even surrounded by classmates, even at home, living with cousins, an aunt and uncle.
Grayson is lonely in part because of Grayson's parents death years ago, leading to Grayson being the odd child out at home.
Grayson is lonely because Grayson cannot connect with others because Grayson is hiding the most important part of who Grayson is.
In Gracefully Grayson, Grayson gradually gains trust and friends until Grayson can reveal the truth: that Grayson is a girl inside. Grayson is a transgender girl.
The Good: I'll be honest Grayson broke my heart, because of how lonely she is. Of how unable to connect with those around her.
At school, Grayson tries out for the play and takes her first step towards her true self by asking to play the part of a girl. One of the happy-tear moments I had was -- spoilers -- when the cast welcomed Grayson, became her friend, treated her like they'd treat anyone else.
Then there were the sad-tears of those who bullied Grayson, and of Grayson's aunt who believes that Grayson is in part causing the problems by not continuing to hide her truth.
And I cried at all the things Grayson did, in hiding. Doodling pictures of girls, but doing it in such a way that people wouldn't know. "If you draw a a triangle with a circle resting on the top point, nobody will be able to tell that it's a girl in a dress. To add hair, draw kind of a semicircle on top. If you do this, you'll be safe, because it looks like you're just doodling shapes."
Loving glitter pens and being prepared with lies to explain why she has the purple and pink ones.
Wearing a sweatband to pretend it's a hairband.
Pretending basketball pants and a t-shirt are somehow a gown, with the wide pants a full skirt.
And how important it is to Grayson, to anyone, to have their own truth by the truth others see. That it's harmful, the years and the lies of pretending to be something other than who she is.
At the end of Gracefully Grayson, someone tells Grayson that "I know it may feel like there are people who are against you, but I want you to remember that most people in the world are good. Look for the people who extend a hand to you. And when they do take it." This, in a nutshell, sums up the book. There are people against Grayson, for various reasons. But there are just as many good people in Grayson's world.
And the question left to the reader is this: is the reader one of the good ones? Does the reader extend a hand to those around them?
I'm making this one of my Favorite Books of 2014, because it is such a beautiful book and Grayson is such an endearing twelve year old.
Links: author interview at Diversity in YA; Bookfabulous Review; Robert Bittner Review at Gay YA;
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
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