"Gracefully" starting off the New Year
Well, the first book I finished reading in 2015 was one I never would have expected - actually, it's a book I wasn't aware of until about 5pm on New Year's Day: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky. I saw the book in the young adult section while shopping at Target, and the premise intrigued me enough to purchase the book and start reading it almost immediately. It seems that most "YA" books fall under the heading of either dystopia or romance with a tragic twist. Gracefully Grayson doesn't fit into either category.
Gracefully Grayson centers on a 6th grader who is slowly coming to the realization that she is trans*. At first I thought the book was a little heavy-handing, bringing up all of these things to make us look at Grayson with a certain amount of pity, to see all these horrible things that have happened to her, to create an immediate sympathetic character. But, while many of those things were important to the discovery of Grayson (our discovery and her discovery), they ended up being less-central to the plot and character development than perhaps initially implied.
We follow Grayson as she works her way through 6th grade, trying out for the spring play (based on the Greek mythological tale of Persephone - an apt metaphor that at times seems reminiscent of some lyrics on Hedwig and the Angry Inch), making new friends and seeing others fade away, and working out who she is. We don't end with a strong conclusion, but that's okay. Grayson is only a 6th grader; she has much more time to learn about herself (don't we all!), and ending conclusively would be misleading. One thing I appreciated about the novel is that it's pretty straight-forward and not polemical in the least.
This is Ms. Polonsky's first novel, and while I wouldn't put it on the same level with some other "YA" books I've read recently, it's a strong first-outing. I hope she continues to write, and I hope that her books continue to give voice to those who need to be heard.