The Pants Project by Cat Clarke
Published by: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Released: March 01 2017 (US) March 07 (Australia)
Read: October 16 2017
I read this last year because I promised Megan Daley I would write about transgender middle grade students. I had George and The Other Boy, and when this one appeared on Netgalley, it completed my trio (I like to work in threes). The blog post I wrote for Megan is at Children’s Books Daily. But I always knew I would be back to write more about this interesting and inspiring book.
Liv articulates to himself (and to us) very clearly about being a boy. But is not so forthright with actual people in his life. He cares so much for his two ‘moms’ (Americanism urgh) he tries to protect them from his anger and frustration. He understands he can’t lash out, but the strong reactions he feels against being told to grow his hair longer, being called Olivia, and of course, wearing skirts to school make it hard for him to remain silent and calm. This is a very insightful depiction of Liv’s character. He repeated acknowledges his choice to not react. I liked how mature he tries to be.
But he’s not always successful, because he’s only 12. He hasn’t told anyone the truth, and more and more the secret is eating away at his self-confidence and his identity. Making friends with Jacob at the same as losing connection with former best friend, Maisie, is almost a lifesaver. Jacob accepts Liv as he is, and when Liv eventually confesses his secret, Jacob shares his own.
I do want to repeat something I said in my other review. In this book, and another one called George, the main character each divulges first to their friends. Young people who not transitioning, or not black, or gay or whatever other minority is being highlighted should have access to books about these people because we just don’t know everything about what’s happening in our friends’ lives. And if reading The Pants Project means a cis kid stops using defamatory language about transgender people, then who knows what other positive ramifications there might be. It starts and ends with kindness and compassion.
I found this fresh and positive. Thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for the read.
The Pants Project is recommended for people who like their contemporary fiction diverse and inclusion. There’s no romance, but the friendship roller coaster is strong. Positive representations of supportive parents, yet some other adults are presented as ill-mannered and oblivious, which is realistic. Offers a hopeful conclusion in which Liv feels safe and loved. On my soapbox a bit with this one, but I believe school libraries should try to add fiction like this to their collections. Out (in Australia) on March 07.