This is the first book that I have read with a trans-gender lead character and I absolutely loved it. It feels like a breakthrough moment in fiction for children and I’m so pleased that Alex Gino has written a book about such a relevant and important subject.
Ten-year-old George struggles to fit in with her family and friends. Very much not meeting the expectations of how a boy should behave and act. Whilst she may have the appearance of a boy, a mum who knows that she has raised a boy and a brother, Scott, who refers to her as his young bro, George knows something that they don’t. Deep inside her she knows that she is a girl and it’s about time that other people saw that too. George is desperate to tell her mum and her best friend Kelly about her true feelings but there never seems to be a good time. Mum is always making references about ‘her boy’ and George growing into a man. And happy go-lucky care-free Kelly never really takes anything too seriously even when George drops big hints about who she is and her true feelings.
When the opportunity to perform in a school production of Charlotte’s Web comes along, George is thrilled. It will provide her the chance to play a girl part and show the world who she really is. If she is a girl on-stage, then maybe people will see her as girl off-stage too. But her class teacher is very strict about roles being gender specific and George’s stage debut is heading for disaster. Will George ever get to show the world who she really is?
This story is so utterly believable, George’s struggle to fit in and the social awkwardness she experiences on a daily basis. The challenges of living a secret life - the girl magazines that she hides away in her wardrobe, only being Princess on Mario Kart when she is playing alone, the secret internet searches to learn about surgeries and hormone enhancers and blockers, the school children making mock jokes about George being a girl when her behaviour does not meet their expectations of a boy. Gino does not miss a beat.
It is not until half-way through the story that George finally has the confidence and courage to ask her best friend the question, “What if I am a girl?” The energy pulses from the story at this point as George is finally able to utter the words that she has been wanting to for so long. You can feel the energy and adrenaline pouring out of her as this release that has been trapped up inside her for so long is finally shared with another person.
It is wonderful when George is able to reveal to Kelly who she really is. Kelly is thrilled and shows that real real friends are there for you no matter what and this is celebrated in a wonderful trip to the zoo where George gets to live her life as Melissa, her female self. Whilst George’s mum perhaps doesn’t share Kelly’s enthusiasm at George’s revelation, her support for her child never wavers. Interestingly, brother Scott, finds that having a ‘sister’ actually makes more sense to him. George’s feminine actions and behaviour make more sense to him now that he understands that she is a girl.
This is a wonderful book and is an easy read with so many opportunities for discussions. A read that will help those children who have similar feelings to George uncover their true selves and will hopefully give them the encouragement and confidence to have open and honest discussions with those people close to them. This sensitive story will help children understand what it can feel like to be transgender and is very powerful in supporting children to accept who they truly are. For other George's out there, you are definitely not alone.
Recommended for 10+.