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Lily and Dunkin

by Donna Gephart

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3631456,182 (4.23)4
"Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you're in the eighth-grade. Norbert Dorfman, nicknamed Dunkin Dorfman, is bipolar and has just moved from the New Jersey town he's called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse. One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change"--… (more)
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children's middlegrade/young adult fiction (5th grade and up?); trans girl and bipolar boy experience several trying times during 8th grade. For the first several chapters I was thinking, these kids are so cute, and nothing like the middle-schoolers I remember. Then along comes a group of jocks who bully everyone, and yep, that's more like the middle-schoolers we know and recognize (sigh). Have some tissues handy, because it gets pretty serious in the middle and at the end.

The characters are wonderfully charming and layered, and while the book dealt a lot with their issues and their self-acceptance, it was also about peer pressure, family relations, friendship, and standing up for what you believe in. A great story on all counts. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
Lily and Dunkin is told in alternating first person viewpoints from the two protagonists. Lily is a transgender girl, who is having a difficult time getting support from her Dad, and getting the courage to come out as a girl at school, where she is already the victim of bullying. Dunkin is a boy with serious bipolar disorder, who starts to skip doses of his meds so he can keep up on the basketball court. The two meet in the first few chapters of the book... but largely this reads as two separate stories. There is minimal interaction between Lily and Dunkin during the bulk of the book. This is in part because Dunkin treats Lily like crap so he will be accepted by the "popular" school bullies, who are all on the basketball team.

I thought the separation of the stories was a bit of a weakness, but the greater weakness for me was that Dunkin was just too big of a jerk. Bipolar disorder aside, he keeps sticking with the school assholes instead of even attempting to do the right thing. (Until the end of the book, when of course he learns his lesson, but it took so long getting there it was completely unbelievable. Also unbelievable that Lily would want anything to do with him after all the times Dunkin treated her like crap.)

I enjoyed Lily's story, and found her a sympathetic character. I might have felt the same way about Dunkin's story, if he just didn't treat Lily so badly and actually want to be with people he knew were horrid, just to be "popular." As a side note, 8th grade characters kept telling 3rd grade jokes, which was bad enough, but then they'd usually say, "Get it?" and explain the third grade joke, in case the reader was too dense to get it. Ugh. ( )
  fingerpost | Nov 26, 2020 |
I found this a little clunky and problem novel-y in places. There aren't that many middle grade-appropriate books about trans kids yet, but they are all starting to sound the same. Each kid speaks about their gender in the same way ("I always knew I was really a girl/boy on the inside"), and they're all about white kids in generic suburbs with fairly generic interests. My genderqueer students don't necessarily speak about gender in that sort of binary -- gender, to much of "Generation Z" (ugh, really, demographers?), has quickly become a fluid spectrum. I'd like to see that more subtlely addressed in a book.

I found Dunkin's story much more compelling than Lily's. His struggles with mental illness felt more specific and touching, and I don't think I've ever read a book about a middle schooler with bipolar disorder. We definitely need more stories that explore that internal landscape. In the author's note, Gephart writes that Dunkin's story came from her personal experiences, whereas Lily's she had to research as an outsider. Not that authors always have to "write what they know," of course, but in this case I think the discrepancy shows.

Note: if you're booktalking this, I think p. 94 would make a fun read-aloud. ( )
  SamMusher | Sep 7, 2019 |
I really enjoyed the alternating narrations from Lily and Dunkin. Dunkin is in a new town and he misses and worries about his dad. Lily is wanting to be who she is, but her fears keep her going to school as Tim. When she is presenting herself as Tim, she meets Dunkin and they start a friendship during the last week before school starts. Then Dunkin starts school and for the first time in his life the popular kids want to be his friend. This means he can't talk to Tim. Tim gets made fun of by the popular kids. But Dunkin soon determines that to stay popular and play basketball he must stop taking all of his medicines because they are just slowing him down. Not taking his meds for bipolar disorder is very dangerous, but he thinks he can handle it.

I liked and cared about the characters. The struggles the kids faced were very real and I thought Dunkin's dilema with wanting to be poplar and wanting to do the right thing were things that people could relate to. A book that will help people have a better understanding of what other people are going through. ( )
  Robinsonstef | Jul 10, 2019 |
Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you're in the eighth-grade. Norbert Dorfman, nicknamed Dunkin Dorfman, is bipolar and has just moved from the New Jersey town he's called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse. One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change
  dneirick | May 8, 2019 |
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Lily Jo is not my name. Yet.
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"Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you're in the eighth-grade. Norbert Dorfman, nicknamed Dunkin Dorfman, is bipolar and has just moved from the New Jersey town he's called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse. One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change"--

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