Title: Freeing Finch
Author: Ginny Rorby
Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 272
I started reading this book a while back and wasn’t in the mood for it, but I’m glad I ended up deciding to return to it. Freeing Finch is a bittersweet, lovely story about a transgender girl whose birthname is Morgan, but her nature-loving older neighbor Maddie nicknames her Finch after she rescues a bird that hits her window. Finch’s bio dad (the very definition of a human trash bag) abandoned them when her mom was dying of cancer, and she lives with her stepfather Stan and his new wife, Cindee.
Stan and Cindee are very religious and transphobic, and they won’t let Finch express her gender identity. When Maddie falls off her roof and gets hurt Finch is put in charge of taking care of her animals while she’s in the hospital. She reluctantly befriends Ben, a stray dog who Maddie has been feeding. Finch wants to find her estranged father and get away from Stan and Cindee, who are thinking about sending her to conversion therapy.
Cindee and Stan are refreshingly multi-layered characters, even though Cindee’s obligatory charge of heart feels a little far-fetched. I found it hard to believe that none of the kids at Finch’s school knew she was biologically male, and she was able to hide it so well. It must have said she was ‘male’ on the school’s paperwork and I was doubtful that none of the teachers or faculty would misgender her when her stepdad and his wife do it constantly.
Finch was a believably flawed and appealing character in a tough situation, and you really go on an emotional journey with her. Her family dynamic was unusual and interesting; I hadn’t read anything like it before. I felt like Maddie and Finch’s mom were a little too perfect, though it makes sense that Finch would idealize her relationship with her mother.
I really liked Ben and it was touching to seeing him begin to connect with Finch. His story broke my heart but as some of you probably know, I’m a huge sucker for anything dog related. Ginny Rorby’s love of the natural world is obvious and is well-utilized here. The ending is emotionally satisfying and holds promise for Finch’s future.
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