George – Alex Gino (9+)

“George”. Wow.

I’ve wanted to read this since I first saw it in 2015, and I finally managed to get my mitts on a copy.

It didn’t take me long to read – it’s very simple middle fiction but with a huge message.

“George” is the story of a girl (Melissa), who the world sees as a boy (George). Melissa is a transgender girl trying to figure out how to tell the important people in her life that she is a girl.

Alex Gino tells the story of Melissa without fanfare but with a realism that can only be related with someone who has had an experience similar to Melissa.

In 2017 we still have many miles to cross for the trans community to feel and be understood equally. We need more books like “George” because every transgender person’s journey is different, but also so non-trans (cis-gender) people can build an understanding of a transgender person’s life and be a positive part of that journey.

I understood Melissa’s mum’s confusion; I praise her brother Scott’s unexpected understanding; I rejoiced in the principal’s encouragement; but most of all I adored and loved Kelly – Melissa’s best friend. Her initial surprise and stand-offish response felt genuine, and her absolute support of and for Melissa must warm the cockles of the coldest heart.

I know the world is filled with bullies like Jeff, and that in “George” Melissa’s story has barely begun, but maybe if a few more people read books like “George” and “Finding Nevo” (by Nevo Zisin) the world would be a bit kinder and more gentle with trans people. I’d also like to know more about Rick’s story. His real feelings and thoughts without being hid behind his “friend” Jeff. What kind of person he grows into. I found his character very intriguing.

I loved “George”. I love the idea that reading it will make at least one person kinder to the next trans kid they meet. But what excites me most is the idea that a trans child will pick up “George” and be given courage for their long road ahead.

I’d love to do “George” for book club and see what the kids make of Melissa’s story. Are they already cursed by so much of the world’s bigotry or will their childish innocence allow them to empathise with Melissa? And maybe, just maybe, will someone find a real connection with Melissa?

– L-J