Archives: 2014 & Earlier

Parrotfish

Ellen Wittlinger
Simon & Schuster
294 pages. $16.99.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving of junior year, Angela trades a bra for an Ace bandage under a flannel shirt, wears baggy boys’ jeans and a new, short haircut to school, and starts using a new name: Grady. He knew it would be tough to openly live the way he felt inside. Yet Grady never expected that his new name would be rejected, his best friend would desert him, and the school bully would label him a mutant. Only Sebastian, the short kid in TV production class, accepts him, comparing Grady to the parrotfish that changes from female to male.

At home, Grady’s mom is so upset she can’t speak his name, his dad ignores the situation, and his sister hates him for embarrassing her. But after two jocks dance in drag at the pep rally, beautiful Kita hugs him and says, “You have more courage than a whole football team full of those idiots.” Grady falls in love, but what can he do about it?

Sebastian proposes a theory: Place the most macho guy in the world on one end of a football field and the most feminine woman at the other end. Then make everyone else line up between them, according to how masculine or feminine they actually are. “There would be a lot of people in the middle of the field,” says Sebastian.

Wise, funny and full of characters so real that they walk off the page, this young adult novel questions the assumptions that most of us have made. Wittlinger excels at illuminating the ordinary humanity of those who are different. Parrotfish allows readers to imagine what it’s like inside Grady’s skin and to see that gender is merely a many-angled lens. Pair it with The Transgender Child reviewed above. (800) 223-2336, http://www.simonsays.com.

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