by Ellen Wittlinger
YA fiction. 287 pp.
Simon & Schuster. 2007.

the flapcopy:

Angela Katz-McNair has never felt quite right as a girl. Her whole life is leading up to the day she decides to become Grady, a guy. While coming out as transgendered feels right to Grady, he isn't prepared for the reaction he gets from everyone else. His mother is upset, his younger sister is mortified, and his best friend, Eve, won't acknowledge him in public. Why can't people just let Grady be himself?

Grady's life is miserable until he finds friends in some unexpected places—like the school geek, Sebastian, who explains that there is precedent in the natural world (parrotfish change gender when they need to, and the newly male fish are the alpha males), and Kita, a senior who might just be Grady's first love.
I haven't read too many books about transgendered characters—off the top of my head, the only one I can think of that I've read is Luna, and I wasn't so impressed with that one. This is a kind of character I would like to learn more about, because, in all honesty, transgendered persons are the members of the queer community that I don't quite get.

Unfortunately, Parrotfish doesn't really help you understand what it means or feels like to be transgendered; Transamerica did a much better job of that, and Felicity Huffman was totally robbed of the Best Actress oscar. Regardless, I liked this book.

I like Grady. He's the first character I've come across in a long while who I actually like. His problems aren't because he's stupid. Well, I guess you could question the wisdom of coming out as transgendered during the middle of November when you're in high school, but still. And he's not a flamboyant character who is out to rub it in everyone's face. So that was a nice change.

I'm unhappy with the resolution regarding the school bully, Danya. I guess I had come to expect Grady to offer her some kind of olive leaf, though I guess I can understand why he wouldn't.

The writing is pretty good. In fact, for a Wittlinger book, it's rather light and easy. That was an unexpected surprise. Of course, I generally enjoy her writing.

Anyway, the book is good, and Grady is endearing. It's not for everyone, but I think it's a safe book for exploratory reading.


SMD said...

I liked Grady quite a bit too, for many of the reasons you outlined. The only part of the book I was unhappy with was the whole family christmas pageant ending. It felt really false to me.

You mentioned you didn't like Luna - is there a reason why? I'll probably find the answer myself as I poke around some more...

Edgy said...

About the most you get about Luna from me is:

"This was kid of meh. I like that the author is trying to explore transgenderism, but this book didn't grip me. Parrotfish did a much better job of that."

As I recall, I just think that I really didn't like Luna. I didn't like the narrator. The book just didn't seem to do anything for me or appeal to me.

SMD said...

That makes sense. Luna was the first book I ever read about transgederism and it really affected me at the time, but I have since read better.