Rating: 4.5 Stars
Lily and Dunkin meet on the eve of their grade 8 year, each with their own challenges to face with the year ahead. Lily – is trying to get the courage to show the world that she is not “Tim” the name she was born with in the body of a boy, but instead a sweet girl named Lily. Dunkin has just recently moved from New Jersey, he’s attempting to manage his bipolar disorder, overcome his birth name “Norbert” and keep something hidden deep within himself.
This book turned out to be so much better than I had anticipated it being. I’m always skeptical of transgender novels, as I’m just afraid that they either won’t do the story justice or keep it cliché. This book did not disappoint me.
The two contrasting characters superbly illustrate the challenges of being different in middle school, and how the desperation to gain acceptance can drive us to our emotional ends. It’s a very strongly written character driven piece. Lily is beautiful. She just reminds me so much of a 13-year-old girl in so many ways with all of her insecurities and desires, yet with many more struggles to face. Her tail is both heart wrenching and uplifting. Dunkin’s bipolar disorder really opens a window as to what it feels like to live through mental illness, both on and off medication. His inner turmoil is raw and believable. The two make a phenomenal contrast in voices, each telling their own story.
But it’s not just the main characters that suck you into this world, but the friends and family of both Dunkin and Lily that pull at your heartstrings. Lily’s stunningly supportive safety net of friends and family members is incredibly heartwarming to read and Dunkin’s grandmother is probably my favourite character. You are still left with a host of characters who are either opposing forces (Lily’s uncertain father and the school bully Vasquez) who raise the stakes and show that the world still has work to do.
Recommendation: I’d easily throw this into a middle school classroom, but younger than that, I’d be hesitant – not because of the “transgender” discussion, but there are other mature themes that are brought up. A brilliant book for those who feel a little different and want a little faith that there’s a place in the world for us all.