It’s Sticky Note Review time once again, and today’s offering is another that I read a while back, Rick by Alex Gino. Without any further fanfare, let’s get it going.
What Rick is about
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 Goodreads
Why I read it
Primarily: Rick was recommended to me by a friend who read it and enjoyed it, but had questions about the age-appropriateness criticisms they’d seen on the internet. I address that below.
Secondarily: I tend to read books with queer and/or questioning protagonists. I was excited to see one written for a younger audience. I think sometimes adults underestimate the young people in our lives. We can’t know what they’re thinking or what their internal experiences are with gender, sexuality, and sometimes even interpersonal relationships. Some of the conversations I’ve had with tiny humans of late include me saying, “How exactly do you know this?” at least once when they surprise me with something I’d think they wouldn’t know about.
All that to say: Trust your tiny humans.
And the Sticky Note says…
Alex Gino is a master at writing about queer identities for younger readers. While it’s a story about questioning sexual orientation and a story about friendship (and toxic friendships), the part of the novel that really drew me in was the inter generational relationship between Rick and his grandfather, who provided him with adult-familial support.
It’s a fabulous middle grade offering (note: middle grade doesn’t necessarily equate to middle school).
So on the middle grade is not equal to middle school tip: middle grade as a category begins at upper elementary school age, mostly. It’s kind of like the step after chapter books but before YA. So while the main character in Rick is in middle school, it’s written in such a way that younger readers can access the ideas in the text fairly easily.
Some will say that 5th graders shouldn’t read about 7th graders, or that 9th graders shouldn’t read about 12th graders. Here’s what I’ll say in response: kids like to read about the experiences of people who are older than them. It’s a risk-free way of seeing what’s coming in the next few years.
I’m not saying I haven’t done my fair share of gatekeeping over the years—I have—and as I continue to grow as an educator I’m more aware of the ways in which I have been that gatekeeper in the past and attempt to disrupt whatever inclinations currently arise.