By Donna Gephart. $16.99; Random House Books; 352 pages
In her first foray into LGBT children's literature, award-winning author Donna Gephart's book Lily and Dunkin tells the story of protagonists Lily Jo McGrother and Dunkin Dorfman as they navigate the eighth year at Gator Lake Middle School in South Florida. The book alternates between Lily and Dunkin's points of view instead of the traditional chapter-book format.
The story begins with a chance meeting between two 13-year-oldsLily ( a transgender girl in the beginning stages of her transition ) and Dunkin ( a cisgender boy with bipolar disorder who recently moved to Lily's neighborhood from his childhood home in New Jersey ) in the waning days of summer.
From Lily and Dunkin's first meeting, readers are led to believe they would become fast friends; however, the pressures of middle school conspire and succeed at keeping them apart until circumstances throw them together again. It's through Lily and Dunkin's points of view that readers are able to see who they really are while they navigate the treacherous waters of middle-school life.
The book deals with a variety of issues, including parental acceptance as well as resistance, bullying, shame, displacement and economic issues.
One of the through lines in the book concerns Lily's desire to get hormone blockers while Dunkin, who's been taking two medications for his bipolar disorder, is actively skipping his daily medication dosages.
Food is also an important part of the storyLily with her Pop Tarts and Dunkin with his donuts and iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts.
Gephart's inclusion of Lily and Dunkin's family trees in the beginning of the book is a great resource for readers.
For readers who are looking for a meaningful, moving story about two dynamic young teens in the throes of massive changes in their lives, I would highly recommend this book. It's an emotional roller-coaster of a story that will resonate with audiences across the generations.
This book is great for readers who want to understand what it means to be transgender and/or those who want to know how bipolar disorder affects young people.
Gephart dedicated the book to the memory of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide in 2014, and her son Andrew, who has bipolar disorder. At the end of the book, Gephart notes she was inspired to write Lily's story after seeing the documentary I Am A Girl!, about a transgender girl named Joppe at Lunafest in 2012. Following many years of research about transgender people and some prodding by one of her former students ( she'd been teaching creative writing at a high school at the time ) and her son, Gephart decided she had to write this book.