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