“Parrotfish” by Ellen Wittlinger

24 Jul


"Parrotfish" is the story of a transgendered teen who grew up as Angela Katz-McNair. As the novel begins, Angela has taken a big step, deciding to dress like a boy and assume the name Grady. We then follow the reaction of Grady's family, classmates, and former best friend as they struggle to accept the fact that the person they once knew is now living as a boy.

Grady is a very likable character, and it's nice that the entire story is not about being separated, ridiculed, or abused for being different. Yes, a mean, popular girl tries to play a cruel joke on Grady, but the book — for me at least — seemed like it was more about acceptance, both by oneself and by others. In fact, the entire story takes place in the weeks preceding Christmas, a holiday for which Grady's family pulls out all the stops. Besides a lawn covered in ornaments and a house weighed down with lights and decorations, the Katz-McNair family even puts on a Christmas Eve pageant for their neighbors! This year's pageant, with Grady now playing a male character and his eccentric, wonderfully loyal friend Sebastian as Tiny Tim, is a fitting, touching climax to the book.

My only complaint with "Parrotfish" is that I would've liked to meet Angela, the girl Grady was before he found the courage to live as the person he was always supposed to be. Not knowing much about Grady's previous life, the reader never gets to fully relate to his decision to begin dressing and living as a boy. This is a minor complaint, since the book itself is quite good. I particularly liked the fact that it was so consistently positive in tone, as shown by Grady finding new friends — and even a potential girlfriend, Kita — as a transgendered person.

This is a thought provoking but enjoyable book about a person many of us would label as different. It provides great insight into the worries, fears, hopes, and joys of one transgendered teenager. I'd definitely recommend it for high school age readers.

One last note. If you enjoyed this novel, you might also want to read Julie Ann Peters' "Luna."

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Posted by on July 24, 2007 in Uncategorized


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