30 December 2015

Review: George

George George by Alex Gino
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've read a lot of middle grade/YA trans experience books recently, and George, at least in my circles, is commonly referred to as The Book in this subgenre. For me, it's a solid, quiet story, but suffers from a lot of the same issues the other books like it are suffering from.

In this one, George is in fifth grade and knows she's a girl, but no one else does. The class is doing a school play of Charlotte's Web, however, and that may be her opening to be who she really is.

For now, I'll put aside the point that this is a complicated issue for kids to start for a lot of reasons, and dive in more that the book, like many others, doesn't really delve into that complexity for most readers. The result is a book that scratches the surface of the issue, but still makes a lot of references to issues and concerns that are too old for the intended audience. While it's probably impossible to discuss the issue without having the characters in question discuss genitalia, for example, having read many of these books indicates at least a lack of trying to get there.

Then again, I could be approaching this one incorrectly. The intended audience in this case may in fact be trans kids, which is a very laudable goal but also an exceptionally small market, so it may be why there's a lack of resonance here that we get from other books in the subgenre. That's not a knock against the book, but may be why it's just okay to me. While there's merit to the idea that books need to reflect the broad audience out there, there's also the ability of books to expose readers to characters and people not like them, and this might be a failure in terms of grabbing them.

Overall, though, the story is probably just a little too quiet. We're asked to feel for George, but the emotional weight isn't there. We see some positive developments at the end, and it leaves with a message of hope, but in terms of books that get the weight out there, this one might just be too quiet to be the one.

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