From the award-winning author of George, the story of a boy named Rick who needs to explore his own identity apart from his jerk of a best friend.
Rick's never questioned much. He's gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff's acted like a bully and a jerk. He's let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn't given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out.
But now Rick's gotten to middle school, and new doors are opening. One of them leads to the school's Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together. Rick wants his own life to be that . . . understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones.
As they did in their groundbreaking novel GEORGE, in RICK, award-winning author Alex Gino explores what it means to search for your own place in the world . . . and all the steps you and the people around you need to take in order to get where you need to be.---from the publisher
240 pages 978-1338048100 Ages 8-12
Keywords: identity, middle school, gender identity, sexual identity, asexual, friends, friendship, bullies, finding yourself, being yourself, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old
Hey, take a look at that girl over there. I'd like to see her with her clothes off. First day of middle school and Rick and his best friend, Jeff are waiting outside for the bell to ring and the school doors to open. Jeff is looking around the school yard for "hot" chicks. For Rick it feels like an alien world. He doesn't see girls that way and he doesn't feel those feelings about them. So, now Rick's starting to sk himself exactly what kind of guy is he?
What's it like to be a middle school guy? For Rick it means having his best friend, Jeff, to eat lunch with every day and to play video games with every afternoon. Jeff is a ring leader and the two have been friends for years ever since Jeff started laughing at lunch and his milk came out of his nose. That was an instant bonding moment.
So day one of middle school rolls around the two best friends head off to school knowing they've got each other's backs. It's a good feeling to walk into new class after new class, trying to remember where to sit, what to do, how to get from one room to another on time and when to check into your locker and then, know you've got your best friend somewhere in the building doing all the same things and ready to have some good times in the cafeteria.
But something about Jeff seems different this year. He's a bully and he doesn't mind getting someone else in trouble. Rick isn't sure how he feels about being friends with Jeff. Are the things Jeff is doing really that bad? They still have a lot of fun hanging out and playing their video games together.
Rick meets a new girl, Melissa, who gets him looking at the world a little bit differently. Rick starts spending time with his Grandpa Ray who starts giving Rick a place where he can really talk and figure things out for himself.
This is a story about a bunch of middle schoolers who are defining themselves and getting comfortable with who they are. What's it like to walk in their shoes? What's it like to have the courage to tell the world who they really are?
This group is coming together to form a club and claim a place in the school where they can begin to talk about inviting the other kids in the school to join them in knocking down some walls and some old beliefs.
Seems it's time for Rick and his family to be more honest with each other and make way for some fabulous connections and real love.
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
Then you can free yourself”
-- Graham Nash (1971)
“‘ Hi.’ He gave a small wave back. ‘I’m Rick.’
‘I know.’ Melissa smiled with a mix of nerves and glee.
And that’s when Rick realized that the girl in the blue skirt was no stranger. He had gone to school with her since first grade. He even used to play checkers with her, before he and Jeff had become best friends.
‘Wait, is that you, G--?’
Melissa stopped him with a raised finger as well as her voice. ‘I don’t use that name anymore. You can call me Melissa.’
‘Oh. Um, hi.’
They sat there for a moment in the din of introductions, just seeing each other.
‘You look good.’ Rick meant it. Not the way Jeff would, but more like she looked happy. Last year, her hair had been in her face and her eyes were almost always focused on the ground. Now her reddish brown hair was brushed back and her eyes were looking right at Rick.
Rick’s brain felt like a vacuum, and the next words that came to his mind popped right out of his mouth, ‘So you’re…?’
‘I’m a girl. A transgender girl. I wanted to come to school as myself last year, but my mom said I should wait for a fresh start in middle school.’
‘That makes sense, I guess.’
Melissa shrugged. ‘It would have been nice to stop hiding sooner.’
‘That makes sense too.’”
I really enjoyed RICK, the sequel to Alex Gino’s 2015 GEORGE.
As we learned in GEORGE, Rick and George, who has now transitioned to Melissa, had once been friendly checkers competitors. But that was before Jeff had moved into town. Jeff’s a mean kid, a real jerk.
But Jeff can be funny (albeit at others expense) and he has fancy electronic toys. As Rick was comfortable playing the role of sidekick, he spent the latter half of elementary school being best friends with Jeff. Now they and their peers are in sixth grade, attending middle school and changing classes.
Rick bears some responsibility for not calling out Jeff’s bullying misbehavior toward others, including George. But, unlike Jeff, Rick’s never talked like a homophobe or behaved like an all-around-creep. As this great coming-of-age story progresses, Rick becomes less and less comfortable with Jeff’s words and deeds, and he eventually finds it necessary to part ways with his longtime buddy. He finds himself growing into a new group of friends that includes Melissa.
During this time, Rick is frequently questioning who he, himself, is as a moral and sexual being. As he pursues this quest, he benefits tremendously from a blossoming relationship with his paternal grandfather, who’s a smart and caring guy, and from participating in the middle school’s extracurricular Rainbow Spectrum club.
I appreciate Rick’s internal discomfort with the manner in which his father and Jeff both talk to him about girls. I recall the beginning of junior high. It was like culture shock, suddenly seeing guys my age holding hands with girls and walking them to class. I was so not there yet. I can still remember how uncomfortable I was when guys would talk about girls in a vulgar manner that had me wondering what was wrong with me, that I didn’t get it.
As I learned, and as Rick learns, the manner in which we are wired will eventually come into focus. We just need to be a little patient and self-aware. RICK will reassure readers of all stripes and persuasions that this is not a one-size-fits-all world, that you can and should be yourself.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS