I heard about this book back when it first came out, probably about a year ago now, and I while I was intrigued, I don’t read as much middle grade fiction as I do young adult, so I never really bothered to pick a copy up until I saw it was on sale for $2.99 on Amazon for Kindle. When I saw that, I wasted no time grabbing my copy of it, and instead of being one of those books that I let sit in my Kindle library and end up forgetting about, this one nagged at me until I decided to read it.
Let me stress that while this technically is a middle grade novel, I believe that it is a novel that everyone should read. It’s sweet, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s thought provoking. It will make you go back to your own childhood and wonder what you would have done if you were in George’s shoes, or her friend Kelly’s shoes.
“George stopped. It was such a short, little question, but she couldn’t make her mouth form the sounds.
Mom, what if I’m a girl?”
George is a girl in middle school who is struggling with her identity – she knows who she is, but she can’t tell anyone – including her mother, who she doesn’t believe would understand. So she hides in her room, looking at magazines that she’s found over the years, full of make-up tips, hair advice, and models that she refers to as her friends. She keeps them hidden inside a denim bag in her closet so that no one can find them. To her mother and older brother, George is just George – a son and a little brother. George’s father rarely sees her, so she doesn’t feel the need to even consider discussing it with him. But when George is alone, she refers to herself as Melissa, which is the name she has picked for herself.
School isn’t easy for George, either. While she does have her best friend, Kelly, she is bullied and made fun of. When try-outs for the school play, Charlotte’s Web, start up, George doesn’t know what to do – she desperately wants the part of Charlotte, the spider who can spin words into her webs, but only girls are allowed to try out for the part. So what is George to do? Face ridicule and read the lines for Charlotte’s character anyway, or play it safe and audition for a boy’s role?
When conflict arises and George feels like everything is falling apart for her, she isn’t sure where to turn, so she turns to her friend Kelly, who is supportive, caring, and compassionate with George. She doesn’t judge or care about what others will say – she encourages George to be herself.
“She looked in the mirror and gasped. Melissa gasped back at her. For a long time, she stood there, just blinking. George smiled, and Melissa smiled too.”
George is a beautiful novel, and honestly, I think everyone should have to read this book, both middle grade kids and adults alike. There are several important lessons to learn from this book.
In the book, George’s best friend Kelly is not only accepting of George, but she doesn’t even care that George is a girl, and not a boy like everyone else believes. It doesn’t change how she feels about her, and it doesn’t change their friendship. As adults or teenagers, how many people can honestly say they have friends like this? A very select few, I’m sure. Imagine if we, as adults, could live by the message that this character sends? There would be much more love in the world, and a lot less hatred and violence.
Also, George is encouraged by Kelly to follow her dreams and go for what she wants, even if no one else is keen on the idea. This is beautiful – and what we should all be encouraging each other to do.
George is struggling silently with her identity for a good portion of the book, and she feels she must do this alone, because no one, not even her mother, would understand. This broke my heart, because as a mother myself, I know that if one of my children were feeling the emotions that George felt throughout this book, I know I would want them to come to me. I think that more parents need to be open and willing to discuss things with their children in such a way that makes them feel loved and accepted, no matter what. It saddens me to the very bottom of my heart that some children feel they cannot go to their parents and that they have to struggle through things like this alone – that should never be the case.
I read this book through in one sitting – it isn’t long or anything, but the messages that it delivers are so powerful that you won’t be able to forget for a long time (if ever) after you’re done reading. In fact, that’s a good thing – I think that this book could inspire a new generation to learn to be more open-minded, compassionate, and loving toward one another, ditching the hatred and the animosity that is filling our society.
Please, read this book. I’m sorry I waited so long to get a copy for myself, and I feel like everyone simply needs this book in their lives.