Thursday, January 19, 2017

[Book Review] George by Alex Gino


George is a middle grade novel about a transgendered girl who knows that although she was born with boy anatomy, she identifies as a girl. Currently George is really excited because her class is doing a school play of Charlotte's Webb and she wants to try out for the role of Charlotte despite everyone around her from her best friend Kelly, her bullies, her teachers, and even her family seeing her as a boy. 

I loved this story. I am a cis straight woman, so I cannot relate to the story on the level that someone who has been in George's position could, but I still felt myself getting emotional for George. Every time something would go wrong for George, I felt my heart sink, and that's when I realized I felt more connected to the story than I originally thought I would be.  I think that is one of the reasons why I told myself I'd read more diverse books this year. Reading gives you a way to have a slice of an experience, a moment where you're in the shoes of someone completely different from you. Hearing stories and listening to someone's story is important, but reading does an amazing thing where you are the main character for that moment. So although George's experience is not the experience of all transgendered people because every story is different, it helps someone like me who will never have that experience, have even more empathy for the transgendered community. I think some of that needs to be credited because of the story, but I think it should also be credited to the writing. Alex Gino is an amazing writer for children. They wrote the story simplistically because it's a middle grade book, but it's smart enough that I feel like young readers will appreciate it. 

Reading this book had me devastated for George at times. His best friend Kelly was so supportive for George when she wanted to try out for the role of Charlotte because she knew women Shakespearean characters were played by men all the time back in the day, so when she said something similar to "what does it matter you're not a real girl". My heart sank for George because hearing those kinds of things were obviously painful for her to hear. Those kinds of instances happen pretty often, from his teachers to his parents. Even the idea of being gay was alright, but being that kind of gay was too much. I think Gino did a great job writing these moments as not only painful times for George but something that seemed very common, which really shines a light on the idea that people who are transgendered have to hear those kinds of things all the time by people who mean well, by people who they love. 

Kelly was a great character, her support and ally to George was really sweet to see. I enjoyed their cute friendship, and that last chapter had me really happy for George. I also loved George's brother, which was a surprise to me because I assumed he was there to be the contrast to  George, but instead he turned out to be a really sweet character. He's a typical teenage boy, but he's a good older brother. 

I think this book is an important one that should be read by middle graders across the world. I would have loved this book when I was younger and maybe I'd be more informed by now if I had been exposed to the idea of transgendered people at a younger age. I think kids reading this book and books like it helps the next generation be even more empathetic and kind. More empathy and kindness are exactly what humanity needs to be striving for to make the world a better place, and books like this are definitely a step in the right direction. 

Thanks for reading!
Have you read George? Do you have a book about a transgender character or real person you recommend? I'd love to know. One book I definitely want to read this year is If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.