Author: Alex Gino
Published: June 2020
Readership: Middle Grade
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+
I received a copy of Rick from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
From the award-winning author of George, the story of a boy named Rick who needs to explore his own identity apart from his jerk of a best friend.
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.
When it comes to Alex Gino’s books, I may get a little irrationally excited. You’re forewarned!
A few years ago, I stumbled across a little middle grade book called George and it pretty much stole my heart. It’s a book I have recommended time and time again to middle grade, young adult and adult readers alike. Ever since then, I have kept an eye out for any new Alex Gino books so I can read them as quickly as I can. Like most books, I didn’t read what Rick was about – I like to be surprised, and most of all, I trust that Alex Gino won’t steer their readers wrong. When I saw it in a Scholastic upcoming catalogue I knew I had to request it because it would be good, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Rick is story of (unsurprisingly) Rick who is interring middle school and about to find out that things don’t have to stay the same in his life. His whole school-life he has been friends with Jeff, who’s a bully and a jerk, and Rick has spent his life emulating his friend in order to remain friends with him. But he’s uncomfortable with that role that he has to play and he’s beginning to question why he’s still friends with Jeff, and why it bothers him when his dad teases him about liking girls or boys. But in middle school, there’s more opportunities for him to branch out, to meet new people and he finds himself attending the Rainbow Spectrum club, a place where students of all genders and identities gather to talk and support one another. Rick’s trying to make sense of his identity and direction his life is going to take, and it might just be that he has to move on from his past to do that.
First up, because I hadn’t even read the synopsis before reading, I didn’t realise Melissa would be in Rick and it was such a lovely surprise to have that link to George. Melissa has become an even more wonderful and well-rounded character and it was a joy to see her again.
I loved Rick as a character. He’s really in that awkward age of trying to figure himself out and having everyone – friends and family – trying to direct him down the path that they think he should be going, and yet he’s uncomfortable with that and wants to find his truth. Much of his journey involved standing up to his best friend, Jeff, who Rick has begun to realise is problematic in that way he views and treats other people. At the beginning of the book, Rick really doesn’t have the strength to do that, but by the end, he recognises just how bad Jeff’s behaviour really is and how it affects not only him, but everyone around him, too, including the potential new friends that he’s beginning to make.
Rick’s family are an integral part of his story – Rick discovers that he’s really not all that comfortable with the things his father says to him, and that even though Rick loves his dad, he’s not sure how to tell him what he’s truly feeling. A bit part of Rick’s story is figuring out his identity and the fact that he really sits on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, but is unsure of where (initially) and then also unsure of how to talk about it with others. But he does have an awesome relationship with his grandfather, which is new, but beneficial for him. They bond over movies and the fact that neither of them ‘conform’ the the social ideals expected on men.
The LGBTQIA+ aspects of the story are handled beautifully, in a way that explains to the reader many of the letters of the acronym, as well as alternatives as not everyone embraces that one label. There is just such rich diversity amongst the entire cast of characters throughout the whole story and none of it feels forced – it just is, like the real world – and it’s so lovely to find stories for young people that embrace and celebrate that.
If you were a fan of George you have to read Rick. The characters are a little older, becoming a little wiser and finding out who they are. It’s a wonderful middle grade title and I hope everyone has the opportunity to pick it up and read it.