A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Lily and Dunkin is a wonderfully written story about the start-and-stop friendship between an eighth-grader who is transgender and another who's struggling with mental illness. The bullies of one become the new friends of the other in this gently written story by Donna Gephart (Olivia Bean: Trivia Queen). There's a predictable amount of middle school cruelty, including the verbal and physical bullying of transgender Lily. Children also deal with some family strife, and an off-page character commits suicide. Both teens have warm, loving families but difficult relationships with their fathers.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
LILY AND DUNKIN meet just before they begin eighth grade. It's a new school for Dunkin, who's confused to realize that at school, Lily appears to be a boy named Tim. Dunkin (birth name: Norbert) is hiding secrets of his own, even from himself: He and his mother have moved to Florida to try to make a fresh start, but Dunkin's past isn't letting go. He starts easing off his mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medication, worried they're holding him back from reinventing himself on the basketball court. Meanwhile, Lily is desperate to start taking hormone blockers before it's too late. Her mother and sister are supportive, but her father refuses to let go of his son.
Is it any good?
This compassionate, skillfully told story focuses on two teens dealing with major challenges, but the themes -- authenticity, connection, and courage -- will resonate with anyone in middle school. In Lily and Dunkin, Donna Gephart -- inspired, in part, by her son's struggle with mental illness -- writes with keen understanding of how difficult it can be for teens to reconcile their inner selves with the persona they present to the world. Lily is very clear on who she is, but she's unsure of how to get everyone else to see her the way she wants to be seen. Dunkin, on the other hand, is less certain of when his medication helps and when it might be interfering.
Dual narratives are nicely balanced, sometimes showing the different ways the two characters regard the same incident. Dunkin's story feels messily real, but Lily's seems a bit too simplified and polished. She has a remarkably strong support system, and even her father's adversarial position is rooted in love and concern.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about trust and empathy in Lily and Dunkin. Why is it so hard for Lily and Dunkin to trust their instincts and open up to each other?
Do you think this is a realistic portrayal of middle schoolers? Do you think it's hard to show your authentic self at this age?
How does your view of Lily's father change over the course of the story?
- Author: Donna Gephart
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Delacorte Press
- Publication date: May 3, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 18
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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