Book Review: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
Gracefully Grayson is a great example of the magic of middle grade fiction. Grayson’s parents died in a traumatic car crash, and he now lives with his aunt and uncle and cousins. Grayson has always wanted to be a girl. He knows that acting this way means getting in trouble and getting bullied, so he just daydreams. That is, until he tries out for the part of Persephone, the lead part in the school play.
This book is heartbreaking because Grayson feels lost both in his gender identity and an outsider in his adopted family. Grayson is caught between many adults who believe they are acting with his best interests in heart. When Grayson’s teacher, Mr. Finn, casts Grayson as the lead female role in the play, his Aunt Sally thinks Mr. Finn overstepped his boundaries. In their own household, Uncle Evan disagrees with his wife’s actions, and hints that Grayson’s aunt and uncle might know more about Grayson than they let on. There are lots of opinions from the adults in Grayson’s life about who he should be, which made me think critically about a parent’s role in their children’s identity.
At the end of the book Grayson is still using female gender pronouns, but wears clothes meant for girls. I can’t speak from experience of course, but I think this is a believable account of a young transgender child’s journey. I say this because I also recently read George by Alex Grino and it had hardly any conflict. Everyone was instantly accepting of George and her transition, which is great, but didn’t feel realistic.
This book is everything beautiful about middle grade fiction and more. Grayson faces bullying, he’s outcast by a friend, and he’s ridiculed for his identity. The end of the book also doesn’t wrap everything up perfectly but points Grayson in a hopeful direction, which I think is important in middle grade fiction for a slightly older audience, like this one.
VERDICT: 4 books
Anna: Welcome to my April memoir review! This month my memoir of choice was Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. I thought this called for feet and green tea.
I’m really enjoying the challenge I’ve seemed to have given myself in 2019 of reading a memoir a month! I’m finding memoirs particularly enjoyable to listen to on audiobook, because I can easily listen to them at work. I listened to Lab Girl this way!
I found Hope’s life fascinating. Her love of science is so beautifully described—she thinks and writes so differently than I’m used too. There are breathtaking descriptions of trees and plants, which I found peaceful (although sometimes they made me a little sleepy!) I also liked how Jahren framed the narrative events of her life around chapters of release plant studies. My reading taste however, craves narrative, and I think what I enjoyed most were the scenes of Hope and Bill’s quirky friendship and the descriptions of her Scandinavian family.
Something that bothered me was Jahren’s use of dialogue tags that weren’t “said.” “Said” is, in my opinion, the only necessary dialogue tag 90 percent of the time, and I find other tags endlessly distracting, and this was especially the case in this book. All the “replies” “answered” “sighed” etc. in this really stuck out to me! This is quite the pet peeve, I know, but this is something I couldn’t avoid noticing on audio.
As a person who studied English and works in book publishing, the value of scientific research is something I take for granted. I read memoirs about writers all the time, something I never really realized until this book. Lab Girl reminded me of the importance of science in our world. Something Jahren repeatedly talks about is the fact that scientists don’t receive enough funding to carry out expensive and necessary research. This is something I knew but honestly never think about. Lab Girl helped me realize the importance of scientific funding and has even made me look at trees differently.
VERDICT: 3.5/5 trees