Title: George (2015)
Author: Alex Gino
Genre: Middle Grade, LGBT
Extent: 240 pages
Review: All George wants is to play Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web in their school play. But she can’t, because Charlotte is a girl—and when people look at George, they think they see a boy. With her best friend Kelly’s help, George comes up with a plan so she can be Charlotte and for once and for all, be seen as the girl she really is.
I don’t read a lot of Middle Grade fiction, and when I read books like this one, I often wonder why not. George was lovely read—very simple, very honest, and really quite sweet. It might be marketed as Middle Grade, but I never once felt disconnected from the story. The language is extremely simple, which makes George’s voice a lot more authentic.
“Mom, what if I’m a girl?”
This book is quite heartbreaking. George struggles with a lot of things—being bullied by her classmates, feeling like an alien in her own body, hating the way she looks, wanting to be something she can’t (yet) be—but her struggles are never in-your-face. Instead it’s a slow, subtle sadness, simmering just a little bit underneath the surface. Whatever she does, wherever she is, it’s ever-present.
George presents a realistic view into being a trans person—a trans kid—in our world. Her teacher means well, her mum means well, but neither of them really understands; neither of them gets her the way she wants to be understood. Their words, instead, hurt George more and more without them knowing.
“George, whatever it is, you can tell me.” Mom took George’s hand in one of her own, and covered it with the other. “Whatever happens in your life, you can share it, and I will love you. You will always be my little boy, and that will never change. Even when you grow up to be an old man, I will still love you as my son.”
Yet no one can ask for a better best friend than Kelly. She’s sweet, supportive, sympathetic and really wise, especially for a fourth-grader. When George wants to play Charlotte in the school play, Kelly tells her to go for it. Whatever George wants, Kelly pushes her to go for it. She doesn’t judge. She accepts even though she might not completely understand—a lesson many of us can all surely learn from.
George’s older brother, Scott, is also another highlight of this book. He’s a teenage boy for sure: he sleeps in his school clothes so he doesn’t have to waste time changing in the morning, he plays too many hours of video games, and he teases George (good-naturedly) simply because she’s his younger sibling. His acceptance of George, however, is just so natural and so completely whole that my heart melted.
Scott looked at George as if his sibling made sense to him for the first time. George had never been gladder to have an older brother.
My only real problem with this book is the ending. It felt slightly abrupt, and I would have loved to read more of George’s family and how they reacted to George being trans, especially her mum. As it is, we only get a glimpse of how her mum responded, which personally just felt a little lacking. Along those lines, I’d also love more on George’s history—when she discovered that she is different, how she came to terms with it, etc.
Overall, George is an important book with an important topic. It’s short, sweet, sensitive, and readers who enjoy something simpler but deeper will enjoy this charming Middle Grade story.