Rick is the follow-up to ‘George’ from award-winning author Alex Gino. Gino continues their wonderful work with another read that celebrates LGBTQIAP+ children and addresses many of the issues that these children face as they navigate school and try to understand their feelings.
Changes are aplenty in Rick’s life. He is starting middle school, his sister, Diane, is heading off to university and his dad is talking to him about girls (a subject which makes Rick really uncomfortable). There is one constant in Rick’s life though and that is Jeff. Jeff is brash, rude and a bit of a jerk. Despite Jeff’s unusual friendship qualities, Rick has tagged along with him and followed him around, although whether they could be called friends in the truest sense of the words is very questionable.
Middle school is often a time when children grow-up and mature into young adults but Jeff is becoming even more of a jerk - getting other kids into trouble, making fun of others and openly talking about girls that he finds attractive and those he does not. Worst of all is the way he makes fun of those kids that he thinks of different to himself, the LGBTQIAP+ kids. And unbeknown to Jeff, Rick is one of those kids.
Rick is desperately trying to figure out who he is; does he like girls, does he like boys, is it ok to not have those kind of feelings? The answers to all these questions may lie at the Rainbow Spectrum, a safe space where LGBTQIAP+ children can meet and make sense of their feelings. Has Rick found the place to work out what he actually identifies as and will he find the children who will accept him for who he really is…
The story of Rick is completely believable and will be relatable to many readers who are trying to understand a range of emotions as they grow-up. Rick is unsure of his feelings and is unable to discuss them with his ‘friend’ Jeff who he knows would be completely unsympathetic to his situation and would more than likely make fun of him. Things come to a head when Jeff pushes things too far - defacing posters and making fun of the LGBTQIAP+ children at the school. The relief and emotion literally pours from the page when Rick finally stands up to Jeff and you can feel this ‘friendship’ baggage that has been weighing Rick down finally lift from his shoulders.
As Rick continues to navigate the choppy waters of middle school, he finds support in his Grandpa Ray who has a passion for cosplay and used to dress up as female character from his favourite show 'Rogue Space’ when his wife was alive. His grandpa is the one that helps Rick to see that he must address Jeff’s actions and is the one that provides support when Rick tells him what he identifies as.
With Rick exploring his own identity, Gino introduces words that are used to define different sexual preferences and identities. Many of these words are new to Rick and he finds himself swimming through an ocean of they, them, grayromantic and asexual. All of these words are sensitively and carefully introduced into the narrative and explanations are woven in too.
Readers of George will be familiar with many of the characters that appear in Rick. Rick, Jeff, Melissa and Kelly who all featured in George are central to the narrative. And we are introduced to new characters that form the LGBTQIAP+ community - Green, Leila and Ronnie, amongst others. The cast of characters are wonderful. They are a diverse mix of ethnicities, genders and sexualities, all of whom are exploring themselves and establishing their own identities.
Like George, Rick is an important and relevant book. Gino’s storytelling is perfect for children who may feel like Rick and are beginning to explore their own identities and feelings. It is an easy read and children will find a wonderfully supportive cast of characters - with the exception of Jeff - to guide them on their own journey of self-discovery. For other Rick's out there, you are definitely not alone, there is a Rainbow Spectrum out there for you too.
Recommended for 10+.