Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Books for an advanced copy of this to review! I saw it on NetGalley and it definitely caught my eye. One of my goals is to read more middle grade LGBTQ books, and this fit that bill. And I’m happy to say I really enjoyed this one!
At the start, the writing feels a little rocky, since it’s a debut. But Bailar hits his stride about halfway through the book and Obie’s voice really shines through. In fact, Bailar nails Obie’s voice in this book. Part of this story is Obie finding his voice, gaining confidence and learning that he truly does have an amazing support system in place. It was great seeing a school that takes such swift action against bullying, becuase you don’t always see that in fiction.
While there is a lot of transphobia and bullying in this book (which is noted with a content warning in the beginning), it’s balanced well with Obie’s friends, parents, and teachers. They want to do what’s best for Obie, and I loved seeing that. His new friends on his new swim team absolutely have his back. There are so many of these great relationships in this book, and I would absolutely read this just for those. Plus, Obie learns to find his voice in writing, and this balances out the swimming really well in this book.
Obie is also part Korean, and his scenes with his grandma are so heartwarming. They make kimchi and talk about Korea, and these scenes are beautiful. There’s so much to love about this book, honestly!
The only reason this isn’t getting a full five stars is because the writing is shaky in a few places. But you can definitely see potential! I can’t wait to see what else Bailar comes out with, because this is a voice that needs to be heard in middle grade books.
This had a bit of a rocky start, but by the end I was absolutely hooked by Obie's voice. Stay tuned for a full review tomorrow!
Graphic: Bullying, Transphobia, and Violence
Moderate: Homophobia, Outing, and Racism