Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ve been putting off writing this review because I wanted to do it right.
Lily is a girl. Or at least, wants to be a girl. Her real name is Timmy and after struggling with her identity for as long as she remembers, she finally decides that she will be Lily full-time in 8th grade. Unfortunately, despite having support from her mother and sister, her father is not on board.
Dunkin is a boy. His real name is not actually Dunkin. It’s Norbert and he hates it. He’s just moved to Florida with his mom. He met Lily inadvertently when she burst out of her house in her mom’s dress and sandals and he thought she was pretty. Lily nicknamed him Dunkin because he’s obsessed with Dunkin donuts.
They spend the summer together, never really revealing the truth about themselves to each other. Dunkin finds himself in with the basketball team when school starts and his relationship with Timmy (she actually didn’t go through with being herself once school started) goes sour. Dunkin finally faces the truth of what brought him to Florida and Lily is tired of hiding.
Can they help each other embrace who they are?
Lily and Dunkin is one of those books that is unsuspecting on the surface but once you get into the guts of it, it will leave a profound influence on how you think of transgender kids and also kids with mental illnesses.
Gephart does a fantastic job of painting transgender teens and their struggles. Throughout the book, Lily knows who she is but is afraid to let her light shine. It also brings forth the realities of kids that are too afraid to come out as transgender. One of the most touching parts of the book is when Lily’s father (who refuses to accept that she is a girl) finally caves and lets Lily get the hormone blockers she needs (so she doesn’t go through puberty as a boy). Lily asks what changed his mind and he said that the psychiatrist they met with told him the figures of transgenders kids that commit suicide because they feel like they don’t belong.
Dunkin’s story, while less intense on the surface, is just as interesting. Throughout the book, he wonders about where his father is and wishes he were back home with his best friend Phineas. It’s not until the end of the book that you find out that Dunkin is actually bi-polar. His best friend Phineas is make-believe. His lack of medicating himself finds him in the hospital where the truth of his father’s death comes to light.
I can’t gush enough about this riveting story. It was so well written and pertinent to kids and adults today.
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