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Zenobia July (2019)

by Lisa Bunker

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826274,892 (3.62)1
The critically acclaimed author of Felix Yz crafts a bold, heartfelt story about a trans girl solving a cyber mystery and coming into her own. Zenobia July is starting a new life. She used to live in Arizona with her father; now she's in Maine with her aunts. She used to spend most of her time behind a computer screen, improving her impressive coding and hacking skills; now she's coming out of her shell and discovering a community of friends at Monarch Middle School. People used to tell her she was a boy; now she's able to live openly as the girl she always knew she was. When someone anonymously posts hateful memes on her school's website, Zenobia knows she's the one with the abilities to solve the mystery, all while wrestling with the challenges of a new school, a new family, and coming to grips with presenting her true gender for the first time. Timely and touching, Zenobia July is, at its heart, a story about finding home.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
As tween trans-lit goes, this is far and away the best book I've read to date. Reads like a typical middle grade novel, with a slightly different focus for anxiety. No over-the-top outing at a play, and the internal focus of the character isn't solely on the topic of identity. She's also thinking about her father and grieving and dealing with small-time bullying in class and negotiating new-kid friendships, and getting used to the extremely supportive rainbow family that is her new home, and finding solace in her hacking skills. It reads far more nuanced and true to life.

I love that friendships are complex and not at all instantaneous. Moving in with new family is also complex and challenging; and sometimes anger is overwhelming. I love the circle of misfits that she falls in with -- I think it would be hard not to love Arli and Dyna and Clem and Elijah -- they are really excellent humans. I also appreciate both the time spent in consideration of religion, and the fact that Christianity is presented in several different ways: some toxic, some less so. The only thing I'm not 100% into is the out-take chapters, when we get another character's point of view. It's useful at times (grandmother), but it feels a little gimmicky and unnecessary.

Outstanding. ( )
  jennybeast | Apr 14, 2022 |
diverse children's middlegrade fiction (trans girl entering new middle school, helps stop cyberbullying hacker with her own hacker skills)
not the most plausible story but full of terrific characters (a genderqueer/nonbinary friend , two gay aunts and their drag queen friend, a Muslim girl). I don't know the author's background (and really it's none of my business) but it's clear that supporting genderqueerness is important to her; this is the second time she's included the use of neutral pronouns (vo, vem, veir) for a significant character in her stories.
There are also several characters that talk about and cope with anxiety, which I think is also helpful to lots of kids. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
Zenobia July is a compelling and positive story that is also wonderfully inclusive. Zenobia’s journey within the book feels very real, and the characters around her - many of whom live lives that are unfortunately not represented very often in middle-grade fiction - likewise feel very authentic.

The writing style - and particularly the passages presented as text-message exchanges - captured the attention of the nine-year-old with whom we were reading the book.

All in all, it was a great read. ( )
1 vote thisstage | Jan 25, 2021 |
Sometimes the tone felt a little overly adult for a character who is maybe 12 or 13, but compulsive and empathetic reading. ( )
  JenniferElizabeth2 | Aug 25, 2020 |
A lovely middle-grade read that has plenty to chew on for an adult reader. Among other things, I love the way this book shows the thought process of an awkward introvert forging social connections. ( )
  elenaj | Jul 31, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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The critically acclaimed author of Felix Yz crafts a bold, heartfelt story about a trans girl solving a cyber mystery and coming into her own. Zenobia July is starting a new life. She used to live in Arizona with her father; now she's in Maine with her aunts. She used to spend most of her time behind a computer screen, improving her impressive coding and hacking skills; now she's coming out of her shell and discovering a community of friends at Monarch Middle School. People used to tell her she was a boy; now she's able to live openly as the girl she always knew she was. When someone anonymously posts hateful memes on her school's website, Zenobia knows she's the one with the abilities to solve the mystery, all while wrestling with the challenges of a new school, a new family, and coming to grips with presenting her true gender for the first time. Timely and touching, Zenobia July is, at its heart, a story about finding home.

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