Wittlinger, Ellen. Parrotfish. New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2007.
Meet Grady McNair, a typical high school student with one important difference. Grady used to be Angela. Faced with the reality that the shape of her body did not match who she was inside, Angela decided to transition. She cut her hair and chose a new name. If only changing your gender was as easy as cutting your hair and wearing new clothes. At school and at home Grady faces big challenges in helping friends and family understand who he really is, and trying to figure that big question out for himself.
Related Book: Peters, Julie Ann. Luna. New York: Little, Brown Young Readers, 2004. Found in Booklist. Both stories deal with a transgendered teen trying to find their true identity and how their identity and transition affects their relationships with their families and friends.
Published Review: From Booklist
Angela McNair is a boy! Oh, to the rest of the world she’s obviously a girl. But the transgendered high-school junior knows that she’s a boy. And so, bravely, Angela cuts her hair short, buys boys’ clothing, and announces that his name is now Grady and that he is beginning his true new life as a boy. Of course, it’s not as simple as that; Grady encounters an array of reactions ranging from outright hostility to loving support. To her credit, Wittlinger has managed to avoid the operatic (no blood is shed, no lives are threatened) but some readers may wonder if–in so doing–she has made things a bit too easy for Grady. His initially bewildered family rallies around him; he finds a champion in a female gym teacher; he loses but then regains a best friend while falling in love with a beautiful, mixed-race girl. Wittlinger, who is exploring new, potentially off-putting ground here (only Julie Anne Peters’ Luna, 2004,has dealt with this subject before in such detail), manages to create a story sufficiently nonthreatening to appeal to–and enlighten–a broad range of readers, including those at the lower end of the YA spectrum. She has also done a superb job of untangling the complexities of gender identity and showing the person behind labels like “gender dysphoria.” Grady turns out to be a very normal boy who, like every teen, must deal with vexing issues of self-identity. To his credit, he does this with courage and grace, managing to discover not only the “him” in self but, also, the “my.” Michael Cart
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