Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Date Published: May 3rd 2016
Genre: Middle Grade
Source: A review copy was provided by the publisher via a giveaway at YA Books Central
Opening lines: "Lily Jo is not my name. Yet. But I'm working on that. That's why I'm in the closet. Literally in my mom's walk-in closet, with Meatball at my heals."
Lily and Dunkin is the story of two-eighth graders, each trying to find their path at school and in life. Tim is really Lily, a transgender girl who wants everyone else to see her as the girl that she knows she is. Lily's mother and sister have been supportive of the idea of her starting hormone therapy, but Lily's father has been worried and concerned with how others will treat Lily at school. It's ok for Tim to be Lily at home, but her father hasn't allowed Lily to really be herself outside of the house and starting therapy isn't an option. Norbert has just moved to town and really wants to start over at his new school with a new name and make friends without having to explain his bipolar disorder. Early on in the story, Lily and Dunkin meet while Lily is outside wearing a dress. Norbert can't help but notice Lily's engrossing blue eyes. Later Norbert runs into Tim sitting in a tree, Norbert notices that Tim's blue eyes look familiar. Tim invites Norbert to come sit in the tree, but instead Norbert suggests they go to his favorite place, Dunkin Donuts. The two have a discussion about names, and why they each don't like their name, and it's Tim that gives Norbert the nickname of Dunkin. Tim also tells Norbert a lie when explaining why Norbert saw her in the dress earlier and the two begin to move on to talking about school. Once Dunkin starts up in school, he is encouraged by the popular basketball players to join the team, even though he doesn't really know how to play. While at the same time, Lily is struggling with the bullying from the same basketball players. Lily and Dunkin is a story about how Lily is trying to take steps to become the girl she knows she is and the ways in which Dunkin has been managing his bipolar disorder.
Lily and Dunkin's story is told in alternating viewpoints, giving you some of the same scenes through both Lily and Dunkin's eyes. Like the whole first scene of Lily and Dunkin meeting for the first time. I really felt like I was getting to know them both by hearing their inner dialogue and thoughts. They each keep many secrets, yet eventually find a way to forge a strong friendship. I wasn't quite sure at first how Gephart was going to be able to balance the topics of transgender and bipolar disorder into one story, but I feel like she gave equal weight to Lily and Dunkin's stories. I also appreciated that Lily had positive support from her mother, sister and best friend, Dare. Her dad really came off as the jerk at the beginning of the story, but even he turns around about hormone therapy after talking to the doctor. Gephart really manages to cover a lot, some sad things, while throwing in a few twists, and humor, and ultimately leaving things on a very positive note.