Author: Alex Gino
Category: MG Contemporary (LGBTQIAP+)
Publisher/Date: Scholastic/15 August 2015
BE WHO YOU ARE. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.
George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part. . . because she’s a boy.
With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte – but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.
This is one of those books that I wish I had had growing up. That feeling of knowing what you’re interested in but not being able to share those interests because you’re afraid of what everyone else will say about them is difficult; it’s far more difficult when gender expectations are what’s keeping you from sharing them. Coming out can be absolutely terrifying, and George managed to capture that beautifully while also telling a charming tale about friendship and family.
I want to talk about my other two favorite characters in this book first, though — Kelly and Scott. At such a young age, having some sort of support system can make a HUGE difference for a trans kid, and I fell in love with these two characters because they almost immediately decided to help George be who she wants to be however they can. It can be difficult for cisgender people to understand what it is to be trans, especially if they’re young and haven’t had any exposure to openly trans people in their childhood, but once Kelly started to realize what George meant when she said she felt like a girl, she decided to do her research so that she could understand her friend better! The exchange between these two ten-year-olds when George confirmed she was trans made my heart melt. Even before that, when George said she wanted to try out for the part of Charlotte in the play instead of the part of Wilbur, Kelly hardly questioned it before deciding to help her out. I really admired Kelly’s enthusiasm within the friendship and how she encouraged George to be comfortable in who she is. The friendship dynamic between these two was just perfect, and I smiled at every George and Kelly scene there was.
I have a similar appreciation for Scott. Having supportive family members can be even more important than having supportive friends, and with her mom’s initial negative reaction to her coming out, George’s older brother, Scott, managed to make that home life just a little more bearable. Scott isn’t perfect. He doesn’t really understand what it is to be trans, and one of the first things that comes into his head is wondering if George wants to have genital reconstructive surgery, which kind of misses the point a little bit. The thing is, though, even though he doesn’t fully understand, he’s still accepting and willing to learn. Through this, Scott manages to make George’s home environment more comfortable for her to live in, and that can be crucial when other family members aren’t supportive. When you come out as trans, it can take people a little bit to get used to, and after knowing George all her life, Scott’s got a certain image in his head of what his little sibling is like. Knowing that there’s an open willingness to change that image of George in his head is wonderful, and seeing how George felt more comfortable after her brother had talked to her was really sweet.
Finally, I want to talk about George herself. I loved seeing her blossom from a questioning person to a more confident trans girl. Being yourself can be so hard when teachers and parents disapprove of your interests, and George managed to get across those feelings of inadequacy and rejection beautifully. She started out as someone who was afraid of showing who she is, and she grew into someone who is able to put herself out there without worrying too much about what other people think. Perhaps most importantly, I think George can bring young trans readers hope — she can tell them that a rejection isn’t the end of the world and that they can find their place. Life isn’t always that easy, but it’s wonderful to see trans people in literature who are genuinely happy and more fulfilled by the end of the book.
I think children, teens, and adults alike would all benefit from reading this book. It’s pretty short and quick, and it packs a lot of heart into the pages. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this.
Final rating: 5 of 5 stars