Published: September 20th, 2016
A heartfelt and timely middle grade story about a transgender boy’s journey toward acceptance and empathy. Perfect for fans of George and Gracefully Grayson.
Twelve-year-old Shane Woods is just a regular boy. He loves pitching for his baseball team, working on his graphic novel, and hanging out with his best friend, Josh. But Shane is keeping something private, something that might make a difference to his teammates, to Josh, and to his new crush, Madeline. And when a classmate threatens to reveal his secret, Shane’s whole world comes crashing down. It will take a lot of courage for Shane to ignore the hate and show the world that he’s still the same boy he was before. And in the end, those who stand beside him may surprise everyone, including Shane.
My Thoughts:Oh man, this book was ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL. Not only did it manage to make me feel a lot of different things, it also taught me something new. I think that kind of reading experiences are always the most rewarding ones.
The Other Boy is a story of 12-year-old Shane. He is in 6th grade, loves baseball and draws a graphic novel about a man called Hogan Fillion (named after his childhood dog Hogan and his favorite actor from Firefly, Nathan Fillion) in his spare time. He has a best friend called Josh and a crush on a girl called Madeleine. His parents are divorced, and he lives with his mother. Shane is happy with himself and his life, but he has a secret that could change everything - he is transgender.
In addition to his friends Shane is surrounded by his mother and father who have divorced when Shane was younger. Shane's mother is wonderfully encouraging and loving and the way she approaches Shane and his gender is done, in my opinion, very well. Shane's father represent a more questioning side, and though it can be easy to dislike him at moments, the way Shane sees his father helps the reader to understand their relationship a little bit better. In addition to Shane's parents there is Dr. Anne, a physician specialized in transgender children and providing understanding and help when it is really needed.
Shane is such a lovable, interesting character that I instantly fell in love with. He is funny, loving, incredibly mature and capable of forgiveness. He is creative, loves Firefly and spending time with his best friend, and hopes that one day he does not have to live with secrets. I was so touched by some of the things he says and thinks and the relationship he has with his mother is absolutely fantastic and very well written by Hennessey. I was absolutely heartbroken and angry about the things Shane has to go through as a result of people's close-mindedness, but also relieved that there were people around him that accepted and loved him.
I want to applaud M.G. Hennessey for writing this story because I think stories like this are extremely important, especially for young readers. The earlier children learn to be accepting and open and to feel empathy for people who might be a little different from them, the better. The Other Boy tackles, for example, the importance of using the preferred pronouns and the hurt that comes from when someone identifies you incorrectly as well as when and how to use terms like "transitioning" and "stealth mode". It also discusses the importance of accepting communities, like a support group for transgender kids and their parents and tells a heartbreaking story about a boy who feels like he cannot be what he wants to be just because people around him do not accept him. Hennessey also manages to acknowledge that not all transgender kids share similar experiences and is aware of the fact that there is not one correct way to deal with things such as one's identity, sexuality, etc.
There will be parents who will keep their children away from this book and shun it, but hopefully, the majority will be parents who will share this book with their children and encourage them to make their own conclusions about Shane's story. I'm not a parent and do not have the authority to say how parents should raise their children, but I know that children are capable of making their own decisions. While it is completely fine to pass on opinions/values on children, think they should be able to have a chance to form their own opinions. While this book shows examples of the cruelty children are capable of via bullying, it also shows that kids can have an incredible tendency for being open-minded and accepting of people just as they are.