By Ami Polonsky
Available now from Disney-Hyperion
Note: I am using male pronouns throughout this review. The book is unambiguous that Grayson is a girl, but she is identified as male throughout the story.
First of all, GRACEFULLY GRAYSON is notable from being a middle grade (or tween) novel that deals with trans* issues. There aren't stories that deal with this issue for that age group filling the shelves, so this fills a very important gap.
I was a bit disappointed at first. There seemed to be nothing happening in the novel except for Grayson's discomfort with his gender role, and then a tentative relationship with a new girl. I felt rather sorry for the kid as he seemed to think that becoming a girl would be all skirts, dresses, and princesses.
Things really pick up when Grayson tries out for the school play -- as the female lead. It's an important step in Grayson stepping out of his shell and reaching for the person that he wants to be, but not all of the adults around him recognize it as such. I liked that there were no true villains. Some of the adults come close, but only because they're trying to protect Grayson from bullying (that reaches the extent of bodily harm). Yes, sometimes adults have to overrule a child's wishes to keep them safe. It's a difficult conundrum, even if Grayson much prefers one side of the battle.
GRACEFULLY GRAYSON is a fairly slight story that leans a bit too heavily on the issue and too light on plot, especially at first. However, that doesn't make it a dull issue novel of the eighties. Ami Polonsky's writing is quite sweet, and she has a good knack for character. I particularly liked the various girls who reach out and become friends with Grayson. There's also a brief appearance by a progressive mom that I really enjoyed.
One day, LGBTQ books will be widely available for all age groups, and kids will be able to find themselves and their troubles reflected in the stories around them. GRACEFULLY GRAYSON is a good step in the right direction. Grayson's struggle is sympathetically drawn and very suitable for younger readers.