The Pants Project by Cat Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Liv (Olivia) was born a girl, but knows in his heart that he's a boy. But this realization isn't easy for a kid entering middle school, which can be a heartless place for anyone. What complicates things for Liv is a move to a new school, which brings a stringent dress code: girls must wear skirts. No exceptions. Whatsoever. Liv knows in his heart that he's a boy, but the school system (and kids at school) don't see it that way. Liv is already dealing with enough, but now he feels uncomfortable everyday in his school clothes. It also doesn't help that his best friend is dropping him for a group of mean-spirited bullies who bully Liv on a daily basis. But Liv perseveres and comes up with an idea: Operation Pants Project. Liv is going to get this uniform dress code overturned, no matter what.
This is an excellent YA novel that draws you in immediately. I found the storyline to be interesting from the very beginning, and it never wavered. Liv is a wonderful, amazing, resilient young man, and I loved him from the moment I met him. Liv's story is heartbreaking at times, but also very poignant. I see this tale as a must-read for transgender kids, but also all middle school kids, as it offers a wonderful chance to teach empathy. But, seriously, just having this story, and the way Liv expresses his thoughts on being transgender is so key. Yes, a lot of the story is probably a tad simplified, but still. It's just so refreshing to see this in book form.
Liv also has same-sex parents (two mothers) for which he is teased at school, which breaks my heart (being part of a same-sex marriage and having two young daughters). So much of the story hurts your heart at times and makes you just despair how much young kids have to go through at school. Liv meets a new friend in middle school, Jacob, and in reading this book, I just hope that the world continues to be filled with more Liv and Jacobs: it will make it a better place for sure. (I also enjoyed that Clarke seemed to insert an inside joke about how awful and cliche lesbian films can be!)
Overall, I loved this book, and I wish it was on the shelves of every middle school (and high school) -heck all libraries and bookstores-- everywhere! Huge portions of it make you smile, and you will find yourself just rooting for plucky, wonderful Liv and his spirit. There's a great sappy message in this book that I wish everyone could read in these troubled times. Liv has a wonderful sense of humor, and Clarke's writing is perfect for the targeted age group. I do think a great deal is this book is probably a little simplified (not all parents may be as supportive of Liv, for instance), but the bullying aspects at school are spot-on. Just seeing a transgender "tween" in print is great. I would like to see a list of support resources at the end of the book (and I just read an ARC, so it's not the final version) for those who do not have the same support system as Liv. Yes, this book goes a long way toward showing acceptance, but it's not as easy for everyone. I certainly hope it inspires kids to treat everyone equally: it's an important message. I definitely recommend this wonderful novel for kids and adults alike.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 03/01/2017.
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