George, by Alex Gino
Publisher: Scholastic Press (August 25, 2015)
Genre: Middle Grade (ages 8-12), Transgender
(Note: While the main character of the novel is known as George to the rest of the world, she calls herself Melissa, so I’ll be using that name in my review. More here.)
Finding transgender fiction for adults is difficult enough, so to find a novel with a transgender protagonist written for children is absolutely amazing. And George is a fantastic read, with a charming main character.
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.
I think the first time I heard the term “transgender” was in high school. Growing up, I had no idea that gender was fluid; it simply wasn’t discussed. But we live in a world where people like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox now appear on TV every day, and where doctors accept that sexuality and gender are established in children at a very young age. So to have a book about a transgender girl is incredibly important, in my opinion.
I’ve long since grown out of middle grade literature, so this won’t be my normal review. I have no way to judge this book against other fiction for the same age range, or to judge the realism and quality of George (or Melissa as she calls herself) as a character.
But I can tell you that I did enjoy reading this novel. I read it with a smile on my face the entire time, because it was incredibly sweet, and really lovely, and Melissa has so much courage and spunk in her that I wanted to reach through the screen of my Kindle and give her a high-five.
If George were there, she would fit right in, giggling and linking her arms in theirs. She would wear a bright-pink bikini, and she would have long hair that her new friends would love to braid. They would ask her name, and she would tell them, My name is Melissa.
I also really respect that Alex Gino didn’t make this a perfect novel with a perfect, happy plot. Life for Melissa isn’t easy, and it seems like the world is against her a lot of the time. Bullying is a major theme in this novel, as is parental acceptance. But in my completely not-professional opinion, it seemed very age-appropriate and well done.
This is probably the most expensive e-book that I’ve purchased all summer (I wanted the hardcover, but Amazon says it’s 2-4 weeks for shipping, woe!), but I don’t regret it in the slightest. It’s a quick read, but I would give two or three times that amount to support more books with trans characters for children.
George is a book that needed to be written, and Alex Gino did a fantastic job of writing it.
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