Happy Release day to Ami Polonksy! Gracefully Grayson, a middle-grade book about a transgender girl is out on shelves today. Find it in a local bookstore (this may entail badgering them to order it) or buy it online! Make sure to give the author a follow on Twitter as well, and wish her a happy release day!
“I feel like I’m covered in a layer of ice that is starting to melt. I can practically feel it loosening around me.”
GRACEFULLY GRAYSON is a story about a transgender girl. Grayson Sender is a 12-year-old, a sixth grader, and a girl that everyone else perceives as a boy. She lost her parents at a young age, and she’s currently living with her aunt, uncle, and two cousins. When a new student arrives in Grayson’s class this sets in motion a series of changes in our protagonist that make her question herself and the life around her….
When I think about describing GRACEFULLY GRAYSON, a few words come to mind:
QUIET: It’s a “quiet” book. You could argue that not much happens, but I feel like that’s perfect in this case. We spend a great deal of time in Grayson’s head, and you feel like you are right there with her. You can’t help but care and cheer for her all the way through.
AWAKENING: If I could rename this book I’d call it Grayson’s Awakening. It might be super cheesy, but I think the word “awakening” perfectly captures the essence of the book. We have the story of a girl who’s a ghost (has been for a while), and she’s finally becoming more apparent to others now, her image less dim, more real.
COMING OF AGE: I don’t want to say this actually is a coming-of-age story—after all, the age of the protagonist does not lend itself to the definition—but it feels like one. From the very beginning you learn that Grayson has been shut down for a while now, and in the course of the book we follow Grayson along while she finds the courage to finally be the person she has always known she is. So the novel deals with her family and school life (they are part of her after all), but it’s about her opening up slowly to the world around her and learning to be true to herself once again.
“It’s hard to breathe and my heart is thumping, and, all of a sudden, I’m worried that it might explode from all these years of wishing. I’m worried that it might explode into a million tiny pieces, and then I’ll be gone—invisible again.”
I like that the book is about Grayson becoming more comfortable with who she is, and that we get a few glimpses of what’s to come, that moment when you finally know who you are and you start trying to figure out how to present yourself to the world around you. For example, toward the end Grayson starts wondering which bathroom she should use. And while the subject of her preferred pronouns is not addressed, it feels like if the book had kept going it would have been talked about. So by the end of the book Grayson is starting to live like herself, and the author leaves the door open for what’s to come (how amazing would it be to have a series about Grayson growing up?!).
Some other aspects I love about the book: what we find out about Grayson’s parents before they died and how this influences her decisions, the role theater/drama has, the friends Grayson makes, and the metaphors of light/dark the author uses (which I’m not telling you about so you can experience them when you read it, ha).
Now, obviously not everything is perfect, and I do have a few critiques:
Some secondary characters weren’t developed enough. *POSSIBLE SPOILERS*
For example, you have Grayson’s transphobic aunt, but the story never gets past her offensive comments and actions. Nor is there a real resolution with the conflicts Grayson has with her cousin Jack. I really wish there had been more than that for us to read about. *POSSIBLE SPOILERS*
I also thought the ending, although it was obviously left open, was lacking and felt a bit abrupt. I was hoping the book would end with a BANG, but it ended quietly. And in a way it makes sense because if it had ended with everything solved, it would have been unrealistic and I would have felt cheated because after all life is not wrapped up in a neat little bow. So in a way it fits because Grayson is still growing up, and she has a long way to go; just like everyone else around her, Grayson is learning to live…so yeah, it couldn’t have ended with everything tied. But I still think it wrapped up too quickly. *SPOILERS*
I wanted more of a conclusion with Aunt Sally and Jack, and a “longer” goodbye with Grayson’s teacher. All of a sudden the play happened, and there was the end.*SPOILERS*
All in all, GRACEFULLY GRAYSON is an emotional book that’s completely worth the read. You get to follow Grayson Sender while she climbs those little steps to the stairs of her true self. Her journey rings authentic, and while at times it feels sad and lonely, Polonsky manages to give Grayson and the reader a balance with little dashes of hope shining through.
“Well, I think to be brave, you have to be scared at the same time. To be brave means there’s something important you have to do and you’re scared, but you do it anyway.”
GRACEFULLY GRAYSON dips its toes into the pool of trans lit for kids, but beware, that doesn’t make it any less important or powerful. I’m glad it exists, and I’m happy of the message it sends to queer kids out there, that no matter what happens they are wonderful and absolutely deserving of happiness and of the freedom of being their true selves; cliché or not, the world sure needs it and I hope there’s more like it to come.
Thank you Ami Polonsky for introducing us to the lovely Grayson Sender and her story.
Nadia spends most of her day tweeting and daydreaming. Lover of books, comics, dogs and chinese food. Find her on twitter @heartless_tree.