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Gracefully Grayson


Gracefully Grayson

The first thing I did when I finished this book was close it and hug it. I hugged this book nice and tight because this is one of the most well-told, breathtaking and necessary stories I’ve read in a long time, and let me put a huge emphasis on the word “necessary” because that’s exactly what this book is. This is the kind of literature that young people need to be reading because it addresses an issue that is finally getting the attention it deserves. This story also serves to educate people about transgender individuals through a poignant and expertly crafted story that will leave you unsure of whether to grin ear to ear or cry many, many tears (spoiler alert: you’ll probably do a mixture of both). Polonsky has not only created a magnificent book, but she has done something great for both the LGBT community and the human race as a whole.

GRACEFULLY GRAYSON is a story about a 12-year-old boy that has, for as long as he can remember, grappled with an internal battle that is enough to shatter anyone’s world: he believes he was born in the wrong body, and he was meant to be a girl. But this identity has been suppressed because of the death of his parents at age 4, his living with his dad’s brother, wife, and family and his isolation at school, which he has self-constructed since the second grade. Grayson begins to come out of his shell when he befriends the new girl, which inspires him to have the confidence to try out for the school’s play, “The Myth of Persephone.” It is during these auditions that he makes a decision that will, as the reader discovers, set him on a path that will change his life.

"I could write down all the flowery, praising adjectives in the dictionary, and it wouldn’t be enough to describe how good this book is."

I refuse to say anything more about the story because I hope everyone will make time to read this book at some point. I could write down all the flowery, praising adjectives in the dictionary, and it wouldn’t be enough to describe how good this book is. Grayson is a majestic character --- strong, fragile, viscerally yet delicately real. You love him from page one, and even if you aren’t transgender or have yet to meet a transgender person, you connect to him, understand him, feel for him and root for him immediately. Grayson represents a community of individuals going through a harsh fight, and his struggles outline exactly why we must treat transgender people with the utmost compassion and understanding, and why we must always strive to find better and better ways to support them. I’m not trying to be cute or cliché when I say that this book is an emotional roller coaster. It is. I felt something new with each chapter, but the intensity never diminished. I cheered out loud at each of Grayson’s little victories, fell silent whenever I was absorbed in the tensest moments and cried out with rage when people discriminated and attacked Grayson for his identity.

I’d have to say that the most provocative character was Sally, Grayson’s aunt, who was one of the people who was the least sensitive to Grayson’s situation. Now, here’s the funny thing  --- though at times I was appalled at her behavior and was floored at how little she knew about treating transgendered people, I never thought she was cruel.  Extremely ignorant and misguided, but never cruel. Much of what she did, she did because she thought it was best for Grayson --- she wanted to be a mother to Grayson to protect him against the bullying. But the problem was, she didn’t realize that she was making things worse. The sign of a good character is when you wrestle with your feelings about them. There were times that I absolutely hated the woman and wanted to step into the book and ask her, “How could you ever think/say that and not see how wrong/bad that is?” Other times, I could see that she was not a hateful person herself, but just needed a good education. It tore me up and in the end reminded me of the lesson of changemakers like Martin Luther King Jr., who believed that it’s better to treat opponents with kindness and without aggression so they may see the beauty and love in what they oppose and come to their senses. Because that was exactly what I wanted for Aunt Sally --- for her to see the light and love her nephew as much as she wanted to, but in the right and appropriate way.

Every character was well-developed, and I cared about what happened to everyone. This book does an incredible job reminding people that many people in the world are good; we just need to find them and remember that they are there amid all the darkness and pain. The only criticism I have is not as much a critique as it is just me pointing out something I would have liked better. While the poetic chapter that described the performance of the play was absolutely fantastic and hit all the points it needed to make, it still, in a way, felt a little underwhelming because I wanted to see the night of the play through Grayson’s eyes because I wanted to feel his triumph and share his glory with him. That, and the cliffhanger ending, drove me nuts, but in the best way possible, because all I wanted was to see what happened next. All I wanted was to walk with Grayson for the rest of his life, and know the rest of the story. And that is what shows that this book is such a masterpiece.

GRACEFULLY GRAYSON is astounding. I cannot, absolutely cannot, make a stronger recommendation for this book. I think anyone from ages 12 and up can and should read it, and that especially includes adults. It’s good to be reminded of how the world has changed and how we can help it along in its changes for the better. This book is a treasure, and it would make me speechlessly happy if I could see on the shelves of every store, library and home. It’s priceless, it’s powerful, it’s everything I could ever ask for in a book and more. I hope you too will go out and read this book because it will make your soul sing, and everything around you will look brighter.

Reviewed by Corinne Fox on November 5, 2014

Gracefully Grayson
by Ami Polonsky

  • Publication Date: June 7, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Young Adult 10+
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • ISBN-10: 1484723651
  • ISBN-13: 9781484723654