Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart (2016)

lilyThis dual-POV novel addresses big issues like gender identity and depression with due seriousness but a prevailing sense of hope.

Recommended grade level: 5-8

Pages:   352 (for ISBN 9780553536744)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, LGBTQA+

Tone/Style: hopeful, insecure, emotional

Pace: moderate

Topics: transgender people, depression, new friends, moving, coming out

Themes: friendship, family, grief, gender identity, being one’s true self

Summary: For readers who enjoyed Wonder and Counting by 7’s, award-winning author Donna Gephart crafts a compelling dual narrative about two remarkable young people: Lily, a transgender girl, and Dunkin, a boy dealing with bipolar disorder. Their powerful story will shred your heart, then stitch it back together with kindness, humor, bravery, and love.

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. (Source)

Who will like this book?: Readers who want complex characters and loads of feels will find them in this book. Timely discussions of gender identity and mental illness will endear this book to those who are dealing with those issues, and will appeal to the curious and open-minded among those who are not.

Who won’t like this book?: Those looking for action and explosive storytelling may be disappointed. Of course, there are also conservative folks who won’t like the book’s treatment of transgender issues.

Other comments: 


Readalikes: This book adds to a growing collection of books about transgender pre-teens and teens.  Gracefully, Grayson by Ami Polonsky and The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey are some examples. For the younger set, try George by Alex Gino, and for older and more mature readers, try I Am J by Cris Beam. For other books about protagonists dealing with mental illness, try OCDaniel by Wesley King and Natasha Friend’s novels.

-Kylie Peters

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