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Review of The Pants Project

The Pants Project
by Cat Clarke
Middle School    Sourcebooks Jabberwocky    267 pp.    g
3/17    978-1-4926-3809-4    $16.99

Eleven-year-old Liv and best friend Maisie begin sixth grade at a new middle school with a strict uniform policy. At Bankridge, all students are required to wear a “white shirt, a tie, and a black V-neck sweater.” The problem for Liv is that boys can wear pants, but “girls must wear a black, pleated, knee-length skirt.” And while narrator Liv might “look like a girl…on the inside, I’m a boy.” Being transgender is Liv’s secret, though, so his obsession with the restrictive policy is hard for Maisie to fathom. Desperate to fit in and be liked, Maisie can’t understand why Liv has to make such a big deal about the dress code; meanwhile, Liv doesn’t get Maisie’s submissive behavior around the class mean girls (who bully Liv mercilessly). Strong-willed, introspective Liv is a likable and relatable protagonist; in many ways he’s like most tweens, navigating friendships, his own identity, and his relationships at home. Supported by his two moms, Liv tries various methods of protest (wearing pants under the skirt, organizing a petition); he doesn’t get any traction, however, until he makes some new friends, and they join the cause. Despite the one-note characterization of the mean girls and a heavy-handed message (“Maybe one day all of the kids at Bankridge will just accept other people for who they are: boy or girl or transgender or gay or straight or anything. None of it really matters, does it? It’s who you are inside that counts”), this is a touching novel on a timely subject.

From the May/June 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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About Kitty Flynn

Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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