5 STARS for Gracefully Grayson, by Ami Polonsky (Hyperion, 2014)

Ami Polonsky is a young writer I am delighted to add to my “must follow” list, her first novel is so well done. Gracefully Grayson is a wonderful book that I hope many adults as well as young readers will read and share with their family members and friends. I’ve ordered it for our library and recommended its purchase in digital form for our Overdrive Consortium.

The narrator and hero, Grayson, is a 6th grader who mostly keeps to himself, trying to avoid humiliation and abuse by hiding a secret, that he is a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Keeping that secret is increasingly difficult to do, and when the story opens, Grayson is already looking for ways to let that inner self out.

Grayson’s parents died when Grayson was 4. Aunt Sally and Uncle Ethan took him in, but Grayson doesn’t feel part of their family or safe enough to tell them the truth. Aunt Sally has rigid standards for acceptable behavior and wants Grayson to be more athletic and more like her son Jack. 7th-grade cousin Jack no longer acts like a protective big brother but seems to condone his athletic friends’ bullying. Uncle Ethan and younger cousin Brett try to be supportive, but Sally and Jack ignore them.

Grayson’s quest for identity, self-esteem, and acceptance is a heart-pounding suspense story that will keep you turning pages, worrying, cheering, and caring about not only Grayson but other characters, teens and adults, who share in the risks Grayson takes. I hope you’ll read Gracefully Grayson soon. Read it, talk about it — and pass it on!

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