Review of George by Alex Gino
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars -
This middle grade book did so much so right. I know it can often be difficult going into a middle grade book as an adult with the intention of reviewing it. Our standards of plot and character development is on such a higher scale. For me though, many years of reading bedtime stories and buddy reading with my daughter as she grew, gave me the opportunity to see this kind of writing though a different lens. That being said, George blew me away. George is transgender and this is the story of her coming to terms with the realization of who she is not in a world that defines her based on her appearance, typical stereotypes and gender roles that are prevalent in society. George experiences the world through a role she was born to play, a role that society has deemed appropriate for a boy/man. George knows that how she feels is not congruent with what she experiences or what is expected of her as a son, male student, or a boy friend. This book follows George through one week of her life, one week that will change forever how she feels about herself and the world around her. The toughest parts of this book are not what George feels, but lets be clear what she feels is very important, because for me children realizing who they are is a natural evolution. The tough parts are seeing how others, mostly adults, react to George. The reactions of George's brother and mother were both well portrayed, his brother being a surprise stand out. But it was George's best friend Kelley who got me in the feels. This book just shows, even though it is in the smallest way, that kids are more accepting and unfazed by George's secret than all of the adults were. It shows how much of the biases that children grow into come from the adults who refuse to educate themselves or who are not above spreading hate as long as it serves their narratives. This snippet is such a small window into George's life, one that had been hard up until the point we joined her. I am sure that she would continue to struggle if the story were to span her getting older because sadly, society isn't catching up fast enough. This book is important because it gives kids, who may be silently struggling with similar things, the knowledge that they are not alone and that in itself is worth spreading this book to anyone who will read it. This books is excellent for any adult trying to educate themselves or any adult reading it with or to their children to expand their own empathy and understanding of those deemed different. In the end, George wants what everyone, adult or child, wants... Acceptance. For me personally, my daughter could tell me she was a rock and I would do everything in my power to help her be the best rock she can be. I only hope for a time when being gay, transgender, non-binary and the like won't be a big deal. A time when what our children, friends, and family identify as has no barring on the beautiful people they are. Books like George take us one more step in that direction.