Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Six days before eighth grade starts, Lily and Dunkin meet for the first time. Lily is still known mostly as Timothy, the boy name he was given at birth – but he’s practicing being his true self: a girl named Lily. Dressed in her mother’s dress and sandals, Lily ventures out of her house, and – much to her father’s nervous chagrin – waves at the cute boy holding a Dunkin’ Donuts bag as he happens to walk by.
Norbert has just moved with his mother from New Jersey into his grandmother Bubbie Bernice’s massive South Florida manse. He’s missing his best friend Phin. He’s really missing his Dad. But right now, he just needs his iced coffee and donut to get him through another long, hot day. The one break seems to be the smiling “blue-eyed girl with the pretty red dress,” who gives him hope that his new home “won’t be the worst place in the world.”
Eighth grade isn’t easy for either teen. Lily can be mostly herself at home with a supportive mother and older sister. Her father still needs some convincing, but at least she never doubts his love. School is something else, where being thought of as Timothy is getting harder every day, especially with a best friend who’s getting seriously impatient with Lily’s hiding.
Norbert, who Lily nicknames Dunkin for his obsessive caffeinated sugar addiction, can’t seem to find his place in his new world. The basketball team wants him to be their “secret weapon,” never mind he can’t play ball. His overzealously healthy, fitness guru Bubbie can only help so much. Taking his meds only seems to dull his game, even if the voices seem to get louder in his head. He can’t figure out why being seen with Lily is such a problem, especially when she seems to be the only one he can talk to about things that really matter.
Award-winning Donna Gephart – who specializes in middle-grade humor (Death by Toilet Paper, How to Survive Middle School) – explores the genesis of an unlikely friendship between two outwardly different young teens whose souls share a rare connection. While dealing with of Issues-with-that-capital-I – including nonconforming gender identity, bullying, mental illness, suicide – Gephart manages to blend in just the right balance of lightness and humor to create a resonating, affecting read. For those in search of new audio adventures, narrators Michael Crouch and Ryan Gesell provide ideal aural incarnations of 21st-century adolescence.
“I wanted to be as respectful and emotionally truthful as I could while telling a good story,” Gephart writes in her “Author’s Note,” in which she explains just how Lily and Dunkin ended up on the page. “I hope I have succeeded,” she ends. Indeed – respectful, truthful, good story? Check, check, and check. Now all you need to do is read …
Readers: Middle Grade