Title: Gracefully Grayson
Author: Ami Polonsky
Genre: Realistic Middle Grade Fiction
Number of Pages: 243
Grayson is a twelve-year-old transgender girl who lives with her aunt and her uncle and is bullied at school. She gravitates towards other girls but is often treated as the third wheel in a group because they think she’s a ‘boy.’ When the drama teacher puts on a production of a play based on the myth of Persephone, Grayson auditions for the role of Persephone and causes a storm when she gets it. It also gets her beloved drama teacher in trouble and Grayson is overcome by guilt, but that doesn’t stop her from doing the play and letting people see her in the feminine persona she’s always hidden from the world.
I know this was written by a cis author but I actually liked it better than George, which has kind of a similar premise. I think it was because George was written for younger kids and I sympathized with Grayson’s character more. It’s written in a way that really pulls you into the story and makes you identify with Grayson’s dreamy, introspective way of looking at the world. It also takes a honest look at the transphobia Grayson faces and how some instances is more subtle than others.
I could actually understand Grayson’s aunt’s perspective that her drama teacher could have potentially put her in a bad situation with bullies by casting him as Persephone, but the way she dealt with it was terrible. I like it when middle grade books don’t color everything in black and white and trust their young readers to be able to figure out nuances for themselves. The ending was also satisfying but subtle; there wasn’t a total transformation for Grayson or an end for her problems but there is a lot of hope for her to have a fulfilling future where she’s able to live as her true self.