Bound To Stay Bound

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Booklist - 02/15/2016 *Starred Review* “I guess everyone has secrets,” 13-year-old Tim muses, and his secret is known only to his family and his best friend, Dare. Born a boy, Tim knows he is really a girl named Lily. And then there is her new friend Norbert, whom she has nicknamed Dunkin (acknowledging his passion for Dunkin Donuts). Dunkin has a secret, too: he is bipolar. Though not ready to make her transition public, Lily bravely begins to make gestures in that direction: painting her fingernails, wearing lipstick, and so on—all this despite the bullying she receives from the boys she dubs the Neanderthals. Meanwhile, Dunkin has made their middle-school basketball team and, to ensure he has the energy to play, goes off his meds. The two young teens tell their increasingly compelling stories in alternating first-person chapters. Though both stories are emotionally powerful, Dunkin’s comes perilously close to eclipsing Lily’s, but nevertheless both characters are irresistibly appealing, and Gephart beautifully manages their evolution. Though in less skillful hands this might have turned into a problem novel, it is, instead, a thoughtfully and sensitively written work of character-driven fiction that dramatically addresses two important subjects that deserve more widespread attention. - Copyright 2016 Booklist.

Bulletin for the Center... - 06/01/2016 Rising eighth-graders Lily and Norbert become friends, with Lily dubbing Norbert Dunkin after the Dunkin’ Donuts they both love. They’re both keeping secrets, though: Norbert takes meds to battle the same bipolar illness that his dad suffered from; Lily is a girl but was designated male at birth, and she has not yet publicly transitioned to life as a girl, so Dunkin knows her only as his new pal Tim. When school arrives, Dunkin is so desperate to make the basketball team that he bails on Lily and begins to hang out with the basketball team, who bullies Lily; meanwhile, Lily deals with a father who refuses to accept her as she is. As the narration alternates between the protagonists, it paints strong and sympathetic portraits of both Lily and Dunkin, and their stories are simultaneously heart-rending and empowering, ending on a hopeful note. Gephart tackles a lot in this title and she manages to pull it off with great tenderness and credibility (an extensive author’s note describes her lengthy research into both topics and her personal experience via her son with bipolar illness). Even if middle-schoolers don’t have personal experience with transgender identities or mental illness, the longing for belonging and the frustration and fear connected with bullying will be relatable entry points to this affirming and useful title. A list of helpful resources is included. JH - Copyright 2016 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

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