Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger

 

parrotfish.wittlinger

Parrotfish

by Ellen Wittlinger

 

  • VOYA Coding: 4Q 3P M
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing (July 10, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 1416916229
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416916222  
  • Angela Katz-McNair seems like an average teenager, but looks can be deceiving. While she helps her father erect the family’s elaborate Christmas display and attends public school with best friend, Eve, after years of homeschooling, she also argues with her siblings and her parents as she transforms from Angela to Grady. Though he feels that the change is natural and completes him, his family and friends are taken by surprise. After a self-administered haircut and makeover complete with chest binding, Grady feels ready for the world, but not everyone is ready for him. At school, everyone who never noticed Angela now seems all too aware of Grady. Eve has cut all public ties and has joined forces with local bully, Danya, who has made it her personal mission to make Grady’s life miserable. Now he feels more lost and alone than ever before. Luckily, friends appear from unlikely places, including Sebastian, local bookworm and ubernerd who stands up to a group of much larger bullies who try to humiliate Grady in the school cafeteria. Over time, Grady and Sebastian become good friends and their circle grows to include local hottie, Kita, and her boyfriend, Russ. Grady’s crush on Kita grows and when trouble between Russ and Kita gives Grady an opportunity to spend time alone with her, the two share a special moment. When Sebastian and Grady thwart one of Danya’s plots to humiliate Grady, the entire school is relieved to be free from her tyranny and Eve is brought back to the fold. Ultimately the school becomes more tolerate and understanding about gender disphoria and tensions at home abate.

    Wittlinger creates engaging characters who possess deep emotional and psychological intelligence. While told from Grady’s point of view, the story illustrates the many viewpoints of the participants. The issues around gender identity are well expressed and the author does not shy away from any of the controversy. She is careful to represent the issue as a matter of identity and not sex or sexuality. Most importantly, the author treats gender identity as a very natural subject and she has her characters explore the entire spectrum to give a good picture of society and this issue. While her characters are very likable and easy to relate to, the story line itself is a little simplistic and perhaps overly idealistic. In the end, however, the story is enjoyable and will appeal to teens who are curious about the issue as well as though who are personally impacted.

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