Title: Gracefully Grayson
Author: Ami Polonsky
Published: 4 November 2014
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.16 stars
Book Rating: 2 stars
Cover Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.
The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.
Prettiness wise, I love the simplicity and symbolism of this cover. I'm not a fan of yellow, but I have to admit, it's a nice shade. Problem? Well, as I'll get into later, it emphasizes the major push of gender roles in this book. That's not a great explanation, but I'm trying not to spoil the rest of the review!
Final Thoughts After Reading:
1. That was...innocent. In a good way.
2. Gah the gender roles.
3. I'm just a trans guy sitting here with nail polish on and this book is annoying.
Plot: I did "enjoy" (you know what I mean) the presence of bullying in this book. Especially in sixth grade, that's going to happen, and I'm glad it wasn't ignored like it is in some middle-grade books. I also liked the some of the friendships that come and go. There wasn't just the one supportive friend that sticks with Grayson, because, trust me, that's not how it works a lot of the time. You lose friends? You're probably going to go through a friendless period. So good job, book. Also, it was nice that there was a few other problems besides Grayson's transness. Not many, but there was like..one (his parents/living with aunt and uncle thing).
Most of the story focused on the play, in which Grayson was playing the lead, Persephone. I suppose that was decently done. It was just fine I guess. I don't have any opinions...
Characters: The characters? Grayson was fine. And when I say fine, I mean not awful, but I wouldn't describe her as a well-written character. I felt like her entire character could be simply described as transgender, because she's barely anything else. Besides liking theater (which doesn't happen until a good chunks way through the story) and drawing (though the idea is abandoned after the first couple chapters), Grayson had no personality. Hell, I'm not even she has any character traits besides "feminine"! I'm trans myself, and I could barely relate to her. (Does "unrelatable" count as a character trait?)
As for the other characters, they were pretty one-dimensional. They could be described as "supportive," "unsupportive," and "kinda supportive." Should I expect more from a middle-grade novel? Maybe not, but shouldn't I at least be able to relate to the fucking main character???
Writing: What can you do? This book is written for 11-year-olds! Well, it was a pretty easy read. I wasn't completely bored most of the time, and I get bored very quickly. Let's just say it wasn't anything special. It tried to be deep a times, and wasn't really. As I said before, the entire "girly doodles" thing introduced on the first page was abandoned completely and replaced by a sixth grader that can't see other people's point of view and never even bothers to explain his feelings to his family, yet we're supposed to feel sympathy for him. I know, I know, he's, like, twelve, but still. This book is about being brave. You know what's brave? Explaining your feelings to your guardians so they're not terrified for your safety. It's hard, but dammit it's worth it. Now that's a lessen I could stick behind.
Portrayal of Transness: Once again, we have a case of "gender-is-all-about-clothing." Honestly, all these books do is enforce gender roles and give people an inaccurate idea of what being trans is like. I understand that it's a lot easier to tell a child "Grayson was born a boy, but he likes dresses, so he's actually a girl" than it is to explain the entire concept of gender and dysphoria, but...why explain it incorrectly and then fix it later? Yeah, English is really complicated, but that doesn't mean we just ignore it until they're old enough. We start from a young age, introduce it in sections, and by the time they're teenagers they have a pretty decent understanding. I completely support introducing young kids about gender, but I'd rather have it done accurately. If anything, this is going to throw-off and confuse actual transgender children.
Honestly, the more I think about this book, the more times I say "ugggghhhhhhhhhhhhh." I was really looking forward to recommending this to middle-schoolers, but I guess that's not going to happen. Sigh. I wonder what the next book on my quest will be...probably If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo. Wish me luck. :)