A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rick is a stand-alone follow-up to Alex Gino's award-winning debut book George. Rick and his best friend Jeff start middle school together, but Rick is increasingly troubled by Jeff's bullying and homophobia. Rick finds refuge in his school's Rainbow Spectrum club, a group supporting LGBTQ students and their allies, but struggles in his desire to stand up to Jeff. Readers will become familiar with a number of gender and sexuality identity terms alongside Rick. Positive messages affirm characters' various and diverse identities, emphasize the importance of doing the right thing, and encourage kids to find friends and supporters who they can be authentic with. While primary characters are White and cisgender, secondary characters represent various skin colors and ethnicities, genders, and sexualities. Male-idenitified characters express emotions and cry. Violence is mild, including name-calling and vandalizing posters. "Jerk" and "freak" are the harshest language used. Brief comments on girl's bodies, references to "liking" girls or boys, and hand-holding make for a tame, though certainly not boring, read.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
The title character in RICK has never really thought about who he wants to be, but when his family teases him about liking girls and his best friend, Jeff, says and does homophobic things, Rick finds it harder and harder to just let things happen. Rick begins attending meetings of the school's Rainbow Spectrum club and learns that he can be a part of making the school welcoming to everyone. On weekends, Rick hangs out with his Grandpa Ray and they bond as they work through a sci-fi series they both love. With the new perspectives from Rainbow Spectrum and with Grandpa Ray's support, Rick begins to explore his own sexuality as well as what kind of a person he wants to be. When Jeff crosses a line, will Rick be able to do the right thing?
Is it any good?
This is a heartfelt story about a relatable sixth grader-facing questions of identity and friendship. Rick's main character has always been a follower, but when faced with his best friend's bullying of others, Rick knows he can't just stand by and do nothing. As in real life, it takes time for Rick to figure out how to confront Jeff, and the courage he gains from new peers in his school's LGBTQA club feels natural and authentic. Rick's attempts at talking with his immediate family about his problems and his questions about sexuality may fall flat, but he finds a safe confessor in Grandpa Ray, and their relationship is really wonderful to watch as it unfolds. Preteen readers may not notice how Gino naturally weaves in language to describe various genders and sexualities of the different characters, but this tender story can certainly serve as an introduction for younger readers to various gender and sexual identities. With mild violence, tame language, and no sexy stuff beyond hand-holding, this is a safe and wholesome book for tweens of all ages. Highly recommend.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Rick's main character. How are the problems Rick is facing similar to any you have faced? How does Rick figure out what to do about Jeff? What are some ways you might deal with a friend who was being unkind or mean?
Rick thinks he may be asexual or aromantic, meaning he doesn't feel sexually or romantically attracted to anyone. What, if anything, had you heard of asexuality before reading this book? What were some other terms or words that were new to you? Why is knowing them important?
Talk about Rick's relationship with his Grandpa Ray -- what was surprising to you about it? How does it help Rick to have someone like Grandpa Ray in his life? Who can you go to for help and support when you're going through something rough?
- Author: Alex Gino
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Activism, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Publication date: April 21, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: September 25, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love friendship and LGBTQ stories
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