Thursday, June 9, 2011

Recommended Reading: The Thing about Georgie

The Thing About Georgie, by Lisa Graff, is actually a kids book and not really geared toward young adults. The protagonist is only eight years old and the specific problems he faces are typical young children. However, I'm including it here for three reasons.
     1) The writing is exceptional. It's engaging from the first page to the last page and I strongly feel that any age reader would get something out of it.

     2) Georgie is a little person. Not only are dwarf protagonists few and far between, but the way in which a person's feelings about their body impacts the way they experience the world around them is prominently featured in this book.

     3) The generalities of Georgie's problems, (stage fright, interpersonal conflict, infatuation) are problems that are common to teenagers, and indeed all of us.

From Lisa Graff's website:

The thing about poodles is that Georgie hates to walk them.

The thing about Jeanie the Meanie is that she would rather write on her shoe than help Georgie with their Abraham Lincoln project.

The thing about Georgie's mom is that she's having a baby—a baby who will probably be taller than Georgie very, very soon.

And the thing about Georgie . . . well, what is the thing about Georgie?
I first found this book on the same list as Accidents of Nature and Saffy's Angel. Another thing I enjoyed was that a number of the families that figure into the plot are non-traditional and even the secondary characters are fully developed. I can't think of any parts that would be particularly triggering for anyone. It's just a nice, light, interesting read.

Recommended Reading is a recurring feature on this blog. I'm doing this in an effort to build a list of YA books that I believe are both great stories and treat people's bodies in a sensitive manner. I will do my best to point out things about books I suggest that might be triggering even if I feel the book as a whole is worthwhile. If you have suggestions for future recommended books or comments/criticisms of books I write about please feel free to leave them in comments.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dear handful of appreciated readers,

I have not abandoned you, I've just been hella busy. Also, I've been reading my little(ish) tail off and have found only one more book that is marginally appropriate for the recommended reading list. I hope to post on it shortly, but it's about an 8-year-old so it isn't really a YA book. I just think the subject matter is such that anyone would find it an interesting read and it does deal with what it's like to have a body that doesn't quite fit a socially constructed ideal.

I've read a couple of books now that I had high hopes for because they had protagonists with different body shapes, but I've been let down by the way that the authors have the characters "overcome" their bodies rather than embrace them. I've also been disappointed by the fact that even after these characters evolve, they persist in making snarky comments about the bodies of others as though this is an acceptable way to behave.

It isn't.

This stuff hurts all of us, and I won't present it like a sympathetic role-modelish character should get a free pass for furthering the system just because they have a body that looks like mine. I'll admit that when I was a teen who was completely unaware of fat acceptance or body politics in general I would've loved these books. I was that desperate to see someone I could relate to in contemporary literature. But I can't even give them the Courtney Summers treatment and make them unofficial recommended reading while listing the caveats. They're cute books with cute stories. They aren't heartbreakingly beautiful prose.

However, the book I'm currently reading is a brilliantly written YA fantasy that--100 pages in--totally fits Recommended Reading criteria so I'm very excited. Hooray Books!