Witness the bravery (and cruelty) of 8th graders. Feel inspired. Make the hard choices. Make the world a better place. Read Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart.
Teen fiction has grown up, and Donna Gephart is leading the charge. Lily and Dunkin is a delightful novel about several characters making difficult choices, wrestling with their beliefs, and dealing with the misguided intentions of others. This book contains bravery, hope, and factual information about middle school students struggling with transition (transgender), mood regulation, deep/unspeakable grief, and dealing with the bigotry of others. While we might like to believe that 8th graders do not face such challenges, the truth is, middle schoolers know more about being transgender or having bipolar than you think.
There are a few of aspects of this book that really stood out for me:
- The characters grappled with their choices. Lily didn’t attempt to foist her views on others; further, she wrestled with the steps she wanted to take on her own journey. Dunkin wasn’t always a good friend – he had to sort out his own priorities to determine what type of friend he wanted to be. Both characters were flawed, just like real humans.
- Gephart gracefully educated the reader with accurate information about gender and mood disorders. Her descriptions of the chaos of a mood disorder and the decision to take medications (or not) are masterful. Similarly, Gephart’s discussion around puberty, transitioning, and hormones were factual and laden with emotion.
- Not all supporting characters were actually supportive. Yay for reality! This helps the rest of us see where we have room for growth, and opportunity to applaud supporters.
If you like a nuanced book about mental health (not illness!), I’d strongly suggest Lily and Dunkin. There is a high probability that a teen you know is mulling over gender or mood concerns. It might be nice if you were as educated as your teen (yes, the teen with phone in hand, searching the internet for information that is contained in this book!).
A quick note: if you are in the Fort Collins area and seek mental health support for your teen, please contact CAYAC. Adults can contact Connections Mental Health. Don’t suffer alone. Ask for help! We have great providers in our town; it is the responsibility of CAYAC and Connections to help you find those resources!!