I was thinking about saving this review for Pride Month, but current events lead me to believe people need to read this book NOW! Why? Because it is not only working to #EndTheStigma of mental illness with a realistic portrayal of a teen boy who has bipolar disorder (Dunkin), but it also details the struggles — both internal and external — of a trans girl (Lily). I am not trying to make light of Dunkin’s struggles, because he does truly struggle with finding a balance between feeling like himself and properly controlling his bipolar disorder with medication and therapy, let alone feeling like he needs to hide his diagnosis from his peers… but I am going to focus mostly on Lily for this review because think fewer people recognize the difficulties faced by the trans (T) portion of the GLBTQ community.
Imagine looking in the mirror and seeing a reflection that doesn’t match the *real* you — the person you know, in your heart, you were born to be. Even as a small child, Lily always knew she was really a girl. But, she was born with a penis and labeled a boy at birth. Her parents named her Timothy McGrother, but she would much rather people call her Lily Jo McGrother. In fact, her mother once walked in on her trying to cut off her penis with a pair of nail clippers after her bath because she felt so certain that it didn’t belong. Can you imagine the pain of hearing the “wrong” name or pronoun all the time; even from your own father? Can you imagine the embarrassment of being forced to use the bathroom and locker room of the “opposite” gender? How painful would it be to be scolded for painting your nails, growing your hair long, or trying to wear a dress outside of your home when you just want to feel pretty?
Adolescence was painful enough as a cisgender girl; I can’t even imagine the additional complications of being transgender. Between the lack of acceptance and the outright discrimination and bullying they face, it’s no wonder 1 in 3 transgender youth try to commit suicide. I think it is very important, therefore, for people to get the word out about stories like Lily and Dunkin. Not only so cisgender kids (and adults) can better empathize, but also so that transgender kids can see that they are not alone. #WeNeedDiverseBooks because we need to #ProtectTransKids.