Author: Ami Plonsky
Copy Obtained: From publisher in exchange for honest review
Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.
The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.
Books are written, in my opinion, to help us see the world from perspectives and views we might not see ourselves or understand. They are written to help us give an understand of what is not in ourselves. And when done well, they help us grow and become better people. For me, Gracefully Grayson did just that.
As a middle school teacher, this topic of gender identification is one we are starting to see more and more in our schools. This book gave me a much stronger understanding of a child going through a struggle like this. I can't relate to it at all, but hearing Grayson's thoughts and feelings helped me understand so much better. Through his story, I could see how clearly he feels like a girl, and how it's just such a natural thing for him. The way it was shown in the book was so natural and straight forward that it made it easier for me to see and understand.
The character of Grayson is so well done. He's a sweet kid lost in so much confusion. He hasn't had an easy time since both his parents died, so not only is he dealing with what he's feeling and wanting, he's also dealing with it alone to a degree. Yes he has his aunt and uncle, but they aren't his parents. Some wonderful things happen, that help him work through this.
I want to take a moment to talk about the reactions of other characters to Grayson. Some I thought were very realistic, and some I thought were a tiny bit too easy. Grayson's aunt has a really hard time with the whole situation. She basically wants him to not do this, so he doesn't get hurt or teased. While I understood that (that's the part that would scare me if Grayson was my child!), I also wanted to yell at her to support him and let him be happy! Her reaction I felt was the most realistic although frustrating as well. The reaction of some of the kids at Grayson's school were both realistic and a tiny bit unbelievable. As someone who works in a middle school, I think there might have been more bullying etc than was shown in the book - although it's clearly in the book!
In the end I found it to be a wonderful book that really helped me think and understand. I hope anyone who reads it, reads with an open mind and at least gains some understanding from Grayson.
Sidenote - This book is for middle school students. I realize some people would question that, but as someone who spends 9 hours a day with kids this age - most would have less questions or concerns about the topic than parents would.