Disclaimer: Before I go into this review, keep in mind that since I’m transgender, this review may be subject to bias.
Gracefully Grayson is a book about a transgender kid exploring their gender and finding the courage to be who they are. It includes just about everything a kid such as Grayson would experience while in school: bullying, difficulty with parents/guardians, unnecessary intervention by others, trying new clothes out, finding who you are, etc. I can happily say that the book explores all of these aspects and it’s fabulously written.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve ever read a book that made me want to read it again right away. I freaking love this Gracefully Grayson! Of course it’s very easy to relate to since it was like reading my life in someone else’s words. I don’t just feel like I am in Grayson’s shoes just because she is transgender though, because even her personality was so much like mine that it was hard to read the book without feeling like I was reading a story about myself.
This book is just so darn cute! OMG! Grayson is such an adorable, loveable character! She’s just the cutest thing ever! I already mentioned that I can relate to her a lot, but I would say that my biggest difference between Grayson and I is that I never fully explored my gender until age 18. Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to be able to experience the childhood I wanted, but then again, with how stressful it was for me already, I don’t think I needed to add more fuel to my existing fire at that time (lol).
Just like with any LGBT story, Gracefully Grayson reminds you of how important it is to have supportive friends and family. Grayson meets people who are both against and for her at the same time while she finds and tries to be the person who she really is.
This may be more of a nitpick, but one of my criticisms is that Grayson is one of the more “cliché” types of transgender persons: The “I always knew since I was a kid” type of person. Every trans individual discovers their gender identity differently and having Grayson explore her identity in a more creative way would have made for a more interesting read. For example, Lilli Elbe discovered her identity when her wife had her model in a dress for a client, when she was already an adult.
The book begins with Grayson and Amelia forming a friendship, but it never satisfyingly concludes their friendship. Amelia goes from being an important character to a minor side character. The friendship starts to go south suddenly and it feels like Amelia never gets to share her side of the story. She is later replaced by Paige who gets more time to form a stronger bond with Grayson, as Paige becomes supportive of Grayson’s role as Persephone in the school play. While I do like Paige, I was left wanting to know more about Amelia.
The teacher Mr. Finnegan is a great example of what it means to be an awesome teacher. Not only is he well liked by his students, but he risked his job so a child can have an unforgettable experience that they so rightfully deserve. I can’t emphasized just how important that is for anyone going into a teaching career. Putting your students first is an irreplaceable trait of an amazing teacher and I wish every teacher was like him.
Unfortunately Grayson is met with conflict with her aunt who is against Grayson’s decision to play as the lead female role in the school play. Grayson’s Uncle on the other hand supports Grayson’s decision for wanting to play as Persephone. This sets the “good parent vs. bad parent” conflict in Grayson’s story and I love it. It shows you the kind of people that you meet when you’re part of the LGBT spectrum.
I have slightly mixed feelings with how the school play was done in the book as the story started to conclude. It’s done in a poetry-like format. I like that it’s slightly short and delivers how the play transpired pretty well, but because it’s done in a poetry-esque format, you don’t feel fully immersed with Grayson’s performance on stage.
Now for my biggest gripe of Gracefully Grayson: I really hated that the book ended on a cliffhanger. I understand what the author was trying to achieve. By having the book end as Grayson gains confidence to wear her hair clips in class, it lets you know that that was the turning point where Grayson begins her transition. However as the reader as I just feel so annoyed that I’m left in the dark with how Grayson will go about her transition. It doesn’t seem like the author, Ami Polonsky, intends to make a sequel either. It’s annoying, and sequel or not, the ending is anti-climatic.
When I started to do a little research on the author, I was surprised that Ami Polonky is cis-gender (judging from her “About” page on her website) because she captured the experience of being trans so perfectly. No doubt I’m sure she had help, but that doesn’t discredit her ability as a very talented writer. I would not hesitate to buy another book by her just because of how much I love Gracefully Grayson.
Gracefully Grayson excels as an amazingly, emotional book for all-ages. Not only does it give transgender persons a protagonist to relate to, it also gives parents insight in how their transgender kids may feel.
Thank you Ami Polonsky for writing such a heartwarming book. <3