The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

The Pants Project by Cat ClarkeThe Pants Project by Cat Clarke
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on March 7, 2017
Genres: LGBT, Middle Grade
Pages: 272
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.
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five-stars

"My name is Liv (Not Olivia)... I'm not technically a girl.
I'm Transgender. Which is a bit like being a transformer. Only not quite as cool as cool because I probably won't get to save the world one day."
A Transformer is a robot in disguise. Liv is a boy in disguise. It's that simple. Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school's terrible dress code, he can't even wear pants. Only skirts.
Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Live to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn't just a mission to change the policy- it's a mission to change his life. And that's a pretty big deal.

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I felt wary about checking out The Pants Project because, as far as I can tell, this is not an #ownvoices book and, honestly? I’m kind of tired of cis authors writing what feels like the same trans story over and over again. (Also, the wording of the synopsis raised some flags for me.) But I’d heard good things about this middle grade novel, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

I ended up reading this straight through! I could not put it down. I loved the characters and the representation (a trans main character, a happy, close-knit family with two moms, and a secondary character with a disability). I enjoyed the storyline and above all, the hopefulness! Everything about this book reflects the problems middle school kids face, especially if they or their families are diverse. I saw a lot of my own students’ personalities in these characters: the way they think through things, as well as their passion and determination when confronting challenges.

Some cis reviewers have complained that this book is “too cheery.” Stop it. Let trans kids have their positive stories, too. Trans stories shouldn’t have to be “difficult enough” for you to find it “believable.” There is a wide variety of experiences out there, not all tragic.

Overall this is a happy, feel-good book with just enough conflict for its target age group. Through diverse characters, the story encourages readers to consider the experiences and feelings of others, without objectifying them via tragedy or inspiration.

Disclaimer: I’m non-binary, married to a trans woman, but I don’t identify as trans. So, be sure to read Nicole Field’s review of The Pants Project.

five-stars
  • Hahaha, man, I am not a violent person, but I just want to kick people in the shins when they criticize books with trans characters as being “too” happy or hopeful. How could it possibly harm trans kids (or cis kids! or anyone!) to see stories where trans kids get to have good lives and people who love them?

  • Haha, I can’t imagine criticizing a book for being too cheerful. In general, I love happy books and I also really appreciate books that imagine things being better than they are now (or at least, better than they are now in some places).