Review: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Gracefully GraysonAlone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.

The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.

Debut author Ami Polonsky’s moving, beautifully-written novel shines with the strength of a young person’s spirit and the enduring power of acceptance.

Review

I’m usually cynical when it comes to stories like this. I always question their believability when the author isn’t transgender themselves. I can’t help it. It’s an involuntary reaction. The thing is cynicism doesn’t always help, or even mean anything sometimes. I loved Gracefully Grayson, I adore Grayson the character, and I’m quite taken with Polonsky’s writing ability.

There is so much sadness in this story. Half the time I felt like putting it aside. Grayson’s emotion-derived pain is palpable and sometimes I found it hard to bare. If Grayson was a real person I would make it my mission to adopt her as my little sister and take her shopping. Just thinking about it makes me want to go out there and find a transgender kid to adopt! I have a need to help people. In amongst that generalised need there’s also the need to help people to accept themselves and to be themselves. It’s almost a compulsion. It makes me want to shake my fist at the narrow-minded, ignorant, side of society. Gracefully Grayson naturally played to that compulsion of mine. Not that I’m going to actually act on these compulsions beyond being supportive and going out of my way to educate myself on all the things.

Grayson is such a likeable character. She is miserable, but she’s not exhaustively so. She doesn’t whinge like so many other unhappy characters. She isn’t morose. She just keeps going and tries her best to exist. I love the characters around her too. I love how the supporting characters aren’t all one-sided. There’s a mix of acceptance, ignorance, and disbelief amongst the characters. I believe that is very reflective of real life.

Polonsky’s writing is very easy to read, but it’s not dumbed down in any way. She has a great use of words and the story itself has flow to it. Reading her story makes writing appear to be easy even though it is not.

The one thing I regret with reading Gracefully Grayson is I read it way too fast. Sometimes you need to slow down, take a breath, read each word… I couldn’t help myself though. I was happy to almost miss my bus, and my stops, several times thanks to Gracefully Grayson.

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