Hard to believe that something published by Disney Hyperion for children would make me all weepy. Still, Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky did just that.
The story of Grayson, a sixth grader who has already had a rough life. His parents died in a car accident when he was quite young. His aunt and uncle took him and while they clearly love him, they don’t always know how to deal with raising a child who is not their own while raising their own two sons.
Grayson has his own issues to deal with, namely his own identity. Everyone who sees Grayson sees a boy, but when he looks into the mirror, there’s a beautiful girl in a pretty dress there - or there was, pretending gets tougher as you grow older. Knowing that no one else will accept his desire to be a girl, he hides away from the world as much as he can. Something as simple as school lunchtime makes Grayson cringe.
This school year though Grayson has already stepped way out of his usual shell. He finally made a friend (only his second real friend in life). He put his name on the tryout list for the school play. Realizing that a play gives him the opportunity to be a girl, after being encouraged by a teacher and given all of the warnings you’d expect, he decides to try out for the lead girl role.
Not everyone is on board with this casting possibility. In fact, the very people who should support Grayson are not so thrilled with his desire to play a girl. Despite the warnings and objections, Grayson is not backing down, the play will go on. Won’t it? No one can stop it, can they? Sure, they’ll try, but Grayson has come so far, there just has to be a play!
Sadly a story like Grayson’s must have some bullying. Sometimes stories like these can feel a little forced in that department. This story shows a fairly realistic progression - when Grayson is just the shy kid who actually tries in school then the bullying is fairly minor: being called the teacher’s pet, etc. As it becomes more and more obvious that he is serious about playing a girl, it becomes meaner and potentially dangerous for Grayson.
While I’m not super thrilled with where the book ended, I do respect the choice to end it on the note it ended on. One of my favorite books in awhile that was targeted to middle school aged kids.
* Disclaimer: I received this book at no cost in order to review it. I offered no guarantee of a positive review, though I only request books I think I'll like because why read a book you think you’ll hate?