Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on May 3, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Middle Grade
Source: Amazon Vine
Author Donna Gephart crafts a dual narrative about two remarkable young people: Lily, a transgender girl, and Dunkin, a boy dealing with bipolar disorder.
Sometimes our hearts see things our eyes can’t.
Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you’re in the eighth grade.
Dunkin Dorfman, birth name Norbert Dorfman, is dealing with bipolar disorder and has just moved from the New Jersey town he’s called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse.
One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change.
I wanted to read LILY AND DUNKIN because Lily is transgender, and there currently aren’t many Middle Grade books with transgender main characters. The book is told from the alternating POVs of Lily and Dunkin, a boy dealing with bipolar disorder and hiding a big secret.
Going in, I was most interested in Lily’s story. And the first twenty to thirty pages deepened my interest, because I liked Lily a lot. It takes a ton of courage to want to dress as a girl for the first day of eighth grade when she’s already been bullied, and her father clearly disapproves.
But then Dunkin took over the book for me. His character was more vivid and developed and memorable. Even though I disliked him for dissing Lily to be popular, I knew why he did it, and the doubt he had about doing so rang true. And as he stopped taking his meds, he practically vibrated off the page.
I could tell the author had firsthand experience with bipolar disorder. She wrote in the Author’s Note she promised her son (who has it), that she would one day write a book about it. In comparing Dunkin to Lily, I could see that the author didn’t have that experience with someone who is transgender.
I still did enjoy LILY AND DUNKIN. I liked that Lily and Dunkin sort of oriented around each other, rather than being friends right away. I liked that we saw Lily’s parents and Dunkin’s mom; it was especially great that Lily’s mom was so supportive.
But then there was this scene at the end of the book that, if Lily and Dunkin actually did what they did, they would be bullied into the stratosphere in the small-minded world of middle school. I wish the author had put that scene more towards the middle of the book, so she could have explored the repercussions of their show of support for each other. I wanted a bit more resolution.
Overall, while I liked LILY AND DUNKIN, I couldn’t help but want more from it. More personality for Lily. More resolution at the end. And so on.
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