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BOOK REVIEW The Pants Project
by Terri Schlichenmeyer
2018-12-26

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By Cat Clarke

$16.99; Sourcebooks; 272 pages

Mom said you're growing like a weed.

It's true: you've outgrown your favorite sweater, your best shirt, and all your summer shoes. The only thing that fits is a pair of trousers that were once too big—but in the new book The Pants Project, by Cat Clarke, you might have to fight to wear even those.

The first day of middle school stinks to begin with, but it was worse for Liv.

It wasn't just the newness that bothered her. It wasn't that Bankridge Middle School was bigger. The thing she dreaded was that the school had a dress code, which meant wearing a skirt.

Liv hadn't worn a skirt in years.

This was going to be horrible.

But okay, admittedly, the first day didn't kill her, though she learned fast that Bankridge had its share of Mean Girls. The boy she had to sit next to in homeroom, Jacob, was cool ( she'd rather've sat with her best friend, Maisie ). And PE class wasn't bad, as long as Liv changed before everybody else got to the locker room.

Changing clothes in a crowd of loud girls made Liv uncomfortable. That's because she knew she was transgender, a boy in a girl's body.

Being trans was the Secret she wished she could tell somebody, but she was afraid. Her moms would probably understand but Liv wanted to wait, for many good reasons. She'd tell when the time was right; until then, she'd endure sixth grade.

Except life took a turn for the worse. Maisie started hanging with the Mean Girls, and she didn't want to be Liv's best friend anymore. Everybody started teasing Liv about having two moms. A family member got sick. And ugh! those skirts.

It wasn't fair that Liv lost her best friend; or that Mean Girls bugged her, though she tried to ignore them; or that she couldn't reveal the Secret. And it definitely wasn't fair that boys didn't have to wear skirts.

Un. Fair. So Liv cooked up an audacious plan…

Without a doubt, The Pants Project is a good book, for kids or adults. It's also a great reminder that adolescence is hard, kids are mean, support is key—and it's all wrapped up in a wise, self-aware preteen you'll enjoy meeting.

Indeed, author Clarke gives readers a good peek inside the life of a kid who has things figured out—almost. Liv has a good understanding of her situation and is willing to carefully dip her toes into the coming-out pool, but that's not the best part. No, the appeal of this book is that every middle-schooler alive will recognize the perfectly written supporting cast of characters here—Mean Girls, nerds, jocks, nice teachers, jerks—making it easy to sympathize with our hero and her situations.

Meant for readers ages 10 to 14, it could be fast and fun for an older kid; if your child needs a reminder to be herself, she'll especially love it. She'll start "The Pants Project, in fact, and it'll quickly grow on her.

Want more? Then look for Who Are You?: The Kid's Guide to Gender Identity, by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and Naomi Bardoff; or Red: A Crayon's Story, by Michael Hall.


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