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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Various gender and sexuality terms -- transgender, asexual, aromantic, enby (nonbinary), etc. -- are introduced and defined.
It's OK to identify outside the gender and sexuality binary; there are many ways to be a human. It's important to stand up for what's right. Your parents or siblings might not understand you all the time, so find friends and other adults who really get you.
Positive Role Models
Rick's been a follower, somewhat shy, and hasn't really thought about who he is. His best friend Jeff's bullying forces him to reconsider their friendship and who he wants to be. Rick is inspired to be better by his peers in the Rainbow Spectrum club, who are courageous, passionate, and great allies. Grandpa Ray is accepting and expresses feelings without shame. Rick, Jeff, and Grandpa Ray are White and cisgender, while there are several non-White secondary characters and those who identify as transgender, nonbinary, etc. Rick identifies as questioning but thinks he's probably asexual or aromantic.
Violence & Scariness
Jeff's bullying includes name-calling, vandalizing the Rainbow Spectrum's posters with "dirty" drawings, and lighting one of the Spectrum's fliers on fire in a bathroom. There are references to several past fights Jeff started.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Jeff comments on girls' bodies and their attractiveness a handful of times. A few references to "liking" the opposite sex and descriptions of a couple holding hands.
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"Jerk" and "freak" are used a few times.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.