Grayson Sender lives with this secret every day. He wishes that his outsides matched how he thinks on the inside. He wishes he could buy the kind of clothing he wanted to wear and do the things he wants to do that society has deemed too feminine for a boy. But he knows that to reveal his secret longing will break the tenuous peace he has, both at home and at school. And, to make things more difficult, Grayson has been living with his aunt and uncle’s family every since his own parents were killed in a car accident.
If Grayson could only find a way to be able to express his real self, to finally have that chance to show people who he really is, will he regret it? He tries out, and gets, the lead in the school play. Never in his life has he felt so included, a part of things and normal. No one there seems to care that he’s playing a girl. But what will everyone else think? Is Grayson ready to make this stand?
Didja Like It?: While the topic is fascinating and little bit sad, and Ms. Polonsky’s handling of it delicate, I felt like the story was more ethereal than solid. Obviously, I have read stories told in first-person before; but in this one, I felt like I had blinders on, completely trapped in Grayson’s head. I wondered if the secondary characters (the adults, especially) were a little less than 3-D because the story is told from Grayson’s point of view (which, duh, is what first person does); but it is only exactly what he sees, how he feels and what he assumes. Everything in his life is colored by its relationship to his gender issues. Everything is centered around him and his secret. He doesn’t talk to anyone about it, so while these adults may guess that he is more feminine than masculine, they may just assume that he’s gay.
And now to contradict myself a bit: I do understand his not opening up, however. Isn’t this how kids go through the teen years? Don’t they base decisions on what other people are doing and what other people will say? Aren’t they trying to keep embarrassment, ridicule and their uniqueness under wraps? Don’t they have a tendency to lump all adults together unless one has really made an impact on them? Despite figuring in all of this, I just wanted more.
The story was low-key most of the time, despite the topic and the inner monologue. There were issues, of course, but it felt like I was being told about them by a third party while I had cotton in my ears. And once there was anything huge that happened, I saw it coming. Then it was over quickly. It had a very dream-like quality to it. On the one hand, Grayson’s manner seemed spot-on for real-life; but on the other, since this is fiction, it meant that he floated through the book, almost like a ghost of a character.
Anything Else to Mention?: I was left wondering about his aunt and uncle, specifically, wanting to discover more about them and their relationship with Grayson. Obviously they do say some things and give indications of their feelings about what is happening, but I needed more from them. I also wanted more depth from Finn, the teacher and director of the play. Certainly he’s a sympathetic character, but the brush used to paint him was a little broader than I would have liked.
Other than watching some videos about kids who have openly discussed their experiences with gender identity disorder, I have no experience with this condition. However, I imagine that the feelings a child or teen would have about themselves mirror what is described in the book. Who hasn’t known a boy who prefers the company of girls or gets teased because they seem more feminine than the rest of the boys?
To Read or Not To Read: It’s worth reading, especially if this is not something you are familiar with.
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky was published November 4, 2014 by Disney-Hyperion. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to NetGalley, Disney-Hyperion and the Author.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Contemporary LGBTQ+
Ages: 13 and up
You Might Want to Know: Nothing of note