Author: Alex Gino
Publisher: Scholastic UK
Publication Date: August 25th 2015
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Purchase: The Book Depository / Waterstones
BE WHO YOU ARE.
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.
George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy.
With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.
Oh my, where do I even begin with this book? It's not often that a book is brought to your attention and you know that the book is going to be such an important read. George for me, was this book. Not only had it being getting copious amounts of attention in the blogging community, but it's subject matter was impeccable and utilised to it's full advantage. Considering this book is aimed at a middle grade audience, I think this makes this book even more impressive than originally thought. For me, George was outstanding. Literally outstanding. It has all of the qualities that could seriously make this book a contender for a large award. It's just that stunning. So what did I think of it?
First and foremost, if you weren't aware, this story is about a transgender child. If I remember rightly, George is ten and still in school. To have a character that is so young and yet has such a powerful voice about their opinions is phenomenal. It's actually outstanding if you think about it. What is so powerful about George's voice is the impact I know it will have on the children who read this. As a Primary Teacher I know that George's story will resonate with children I teach in the future because of it's reliability. Now I'm not saying that the children I teach are transgender in their own right, but the passion that is brought through in George's voice is something I honestly want to believe will inspire a lot of children - to stick up for who they are and what they want, no matter the context.
As for the writing, obviously aimed at a middle grade audience, the language used is basic and simplistic, allowing the reader the fly through the pages and become completely absorbed in the story. What Alex Gino does in this story is use the world we know today, with all of it's prejudices, and completely envelops confidence and emotion into their work. We get a glimpse through the voices of parents and teachers at how difficult life can be to be exactly who you want to be, especially in a community as strict as education can be. What this novel didn't do is slander it - it's all wholeheartedly realistic if you think about it, because I've seen teachers and parents drive children a certain way because they believe that's how they should be. It's absurd and quite frankly sickening in my opinion. Children are young and need to be moulded in the right direction, I agree that much. However, you need to give them enough room to grow into who they themselves want to be. You can shape them on morals and understanding, giving them the basis to see the multiple paths ahead, but at the end of the day the decision is theres, no matter how young they are. Alex Gino definitely hit the nail on the head with this novel because it did target the prejudices of society and didn't sugar cote them or amplify them to extremes. Something that going into the novel I was hoping they would be wary of - and they were.
This novel has a wide array of characters in different social economic lifestyles. They also each portray an opinion which is utilised so well in this book. As aforementioned we have the teacher and George's mom who both hold very distinct opinions about who George wants to be, but alternatively we also have characters such as George's brother, Kelly, Kelly's father and the school headmistress who all counteract those strong opinions. What impressed me was that there was actually more people in this novel who were okay with George's choice than there were against it. This was definitely an element that I admired.
Now this book wouldn't go un-noticed without it's extremely emotional rollercoaster ride of a plot. There are definitely elements in this book where you as a reader feel so incredibly strong and passionate about George's situation, that it almost brings tears to your eyes. To see the struggle of someone George's age when they're already so focused on doing well was truly heartbreaking. However, I am so glad that this book had a happy ending because it could have gone so many of ways. I loved that George finally found his escape and that in the eyes of the people who mattered to her most, she had confidence to be who she was. Someone strong, someone determined. A girl.
So overall as you can probably tell, this book was outstanding and I couldn't recommend it enough. Although it's aimed at a middle grade audience, I would not begrudge shoving it into the hands of virtually anyone. This is a powerful story in a world where not everything is black and white and it needs to be explored further. I award George by Alex Gino a 4 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale. You can bet that this book will be introduced into my classroom and readily available for any of my students to read it. George's struggle needs to be made aware and her message needs to be shared; be who you are.