Both Can Be True

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Jun. 2021. 368p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063053892.
Gr 5-8–In this heartfelt debut, Machias deftly explores the tension of middle school. Eighth grader Daniel, who is white, feels pulled between his own authentic self—who cries readily and cares deeply for others—and a mold of tough, unfeeling manhood that society, and his family, is pressing him into. Ash, who is also white, feels this tension doubly so as they explore their gender identity. Some days they are perfectly comfortable in “girl mode,” but soon “guy mode” reappears. Though Ash’s mother is affirming, their father pressures them to “choose a side” and prioritize the comfort of other people over their own. When Daniel rescues a lovable, elderly Chihuahua from being euthanized and quickly finds himself in over his head, Ash steps in to help, and the two develop a close friendship with possible romantic feelings. Although Ash experiences some bullying related to their identity, this is a sweetly affirming story at its core, and readers will applaud the blossoming relationship between Daniel and Ash, as well as their growing realization that it’s okay to carve an identity outside of others’ expectations.
VERDICT A must-buy for middle schools and high schools, this story is an inspiring celebration of living authentically.

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