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2011 Edition Cover of PARROTFISH by Ellen Wittlinger

2011 Edition Cover of PARROTFISH by Ellen Wittlinger

 

These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org

 

Publishers Weekly

PW Reviews 2007 July #2

Grady, the teen at the center of Wittlinger’s (Blind Faith ) latest novel, realizes that “inside the body of this strange, never-quite-right girl was hiding the soul of a typical, average, ordinary boy,” so he changes his name (he was born Angela) and starts living as a guy. As one might expect, he faces different degrees of acceptance both at school and at home. Grady deals with a bully who is bent on his humiliation, but makes friends with an offbeat boy writing a report on spotlight parrotfish (which also change from female to male), and attracts the attention of a biracial girl. The story has an unusual backdrop: Grady’s father is obsessed with Christmas, setting up elaborate decorations inside the house and out and forcing his family to perform an adaptation of A Christmas Carol for their neighbors. Readers can predict that something poignant—if rather unbelievable—will happen during this year’s performance (Grady has written a new version, which includes his pronouncement that “Things as they should be, Father, are not things unchanging”). Overall, though, Grady is portrayed realistically, which makes it easy to think of him as a boy. The author demonstrates well the complexity faced by transgendered people and makes the teen’s frustration with having to “fit into a category” fully apparent. Ages 12-up. (July)

[Page 167]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal

SLJ Reviews 2007 September

Gr 9 Up— As in Hard Love (S & S, 1999), Wittlinger tackles GLBT issues, introducing readers to Grady McNair, formerly known as Angela. This fast read follows Grady through the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas as he comes out as transgendered, faces issues of acceptance and rejection at school and at home, and falls in love with the hottest girl in school. Funny and thought-provoking in turns, the book does suffer from a few structural problems. The narrator’s voice is very feminine for somebody who has internally always felt like a boy, and with little effort on his part, Grady ends the book with family approval, new and old friends, a previously forbidden pet, and the end of an embarrassing family holiday tradition. Flaws aside, the book is an excellent resource for building awareness about, and serving the increasing number of, transgendered teens. Helpful resources include Web sites and further-reading material. The lack of similar titles available, except for Julie Ann Peters’s Luna (Little, Brown, 2004), and Wittlinger’s captivating storytelling ability combine to make this a book that most libraries should stock. Grady eventually decides that he will always straddle the 50 yard line of gender, and the book should help teens be comfortable with their own place on that football field.—Cara von Wrangel Kinsey, New York Public Library

[Page 211]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Booklist

Booklist Reviews 2007 April #2

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.” ((Reviewed April 15, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

The Horn Book

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #4

“What I am is a person who’s capable of loving other people. That’s all that matters.” This is the unwavering thrust of Wittlinger’s groundbreaking latest, narrated by Grady (born Angela), a transgendered teenage boy who is determined to show his true self to the world. Unexpected allies include nerdy Sebastian, gorgeous Kita, and Grady’s upset but protective mother, whose ability to be loving and supportive despite her confusion and unhappiness makes her the most complex member of the ensemble. The matter-of-fact plot, tinged with a teenager’s sense of irony, enumerates the day-to-day challenges of being transgendered (which bathroom does one use when neither is safe?) but occasionally loses focus amid the large cast. Still, the tangential subplots (such as an elaborate Christmas ritual telling of parental dynamics) enrich a thought-provoking discussion of gender roles, gender identity, and the influence of nature, nurture, and social construction on both. Like Julie Ann Peters’s Luna (rev. 7/04), Parrotfish can serve as an introduction to transgender issues for curious readers, but it also has enough empathy to satisfy those looking for themselves in the pages. Despite Grady’s unusually strong sense of self and capacity for forgiveness, he retains some complexity and is ultimately both recognizable and likable — an awkward, slightly insecure, occasionally eloquent kid devoted to family and friends, just trying to figure out where he fits in the world. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

VOYA Reviews 2007 August

People redefine themselves all the time. They change their names, their jobs, their majors, their hair color, their political parties, their religions, and even their husbands or wives. Why, then, is it such a big deal to change one’s gender? Although outwardly female, Angela has always felt like a boy inside. After years of girly pretense, in his/her junior year of high school, he/she crops hair, dons male attire, and announces to family, friends, and teachers that he/she wishes to be called Grady. Parents and siblings react with disbelief and distress. Grady’s former best friend, a hanger-on in the clique of popular girls, is disgusted. Most of his/her teachers dismiss transgendering as clear evidence that teenagers do not really know what they want. Bullied, teased, and mocked at school, Grady discovers that he/she has two unexpected allies. Kira, the most gorgeous and popular senior at Buxton High, offers sympathy and understanding. Weird and geeky Sebastian, writing a report on gender changing in parrotfish, proves a surprisingly strong and supportive friend. With a little help from his/her two new friends, some education about the natural world, and his/her own strong convictions, Grady is confirmed in the rightness of his/her actions Peopled with wonderfully wacky characters and scenes, this narrative snaps and crackles with wit, even while it touches the spirit of the sensitive reader. Wittlinger scores another success with this highly recommended novel.-Jamie S. Hansen 5Q 3P J S Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.

One thought on “Parrotfish

  1. Pingback: Parrotfish | Queer Young Adult Literature

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