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Mike Mullin, Author

I'm the author of the ASHFALL three-and-a-half-ology: ASHFALL, ASHEN WINTER, SUNRISE, and DARLA'S STORY.

George, Out of the Box

George - Alex Gino

I was briefly tempted to try to write a review of George without mentioning the central fact of the book: that its main character is a girl born in a boy's body. Not because there's anything wrong with a middle grade novel featuring a transgender protagonist, quite the contrary, there's so much right about it that I can't do it justice in this review. The reason I'm reluctant to focus on the transgender theme of George is that it puts the book in a box. As an issue book. A book that's for some specific subset of people who are or know transgender kids. George doesn't deserve to be put in that box--this is a novel that will appeal to everyone and deserves to be read widely.


George/Melissa is a perfectly recognizable fourth-grader. Her fears about acceptance are fears we've all felt and can all relate to. Her friends, teacher, classmates, and even enemies are well drawn and reminded me of people in my own long-ago school life. All of us are different in some way, and all of us can (or should be able to) relate to the beautiful moment when George finally wins some acceptance of her particular difference. This is a classic middle-grade school story, in the vein of the work of Andrew Clement, Sarah Weeks, or Kate DiCamillo. It's particularly courageous in that it addresses a topic that is sadly considered taboo by some, but that fact should not limit its readership.


I was sad to see that my library classified George as young adult. It's not. It's a classic middle grade story, set mostly in a fourth-grade classroom and featuring primarily fourth-grade kids. I imagine my library misclassified it because of its subject matter. But this is a book that middle grade readers need partly because of its subject. Something on the order of 0.3% of people are born transgender, so if there are more than 300 kids in an elementary school, the odds are that at least one of them is trans.


Part of the point of reading is to experience difference. Every time I open a book, I have the marvelous opportunity to walk in someone else's shoes for a few miles. When the characters are as interesting and well drawn as those in George, that journey is truly a joy.