The Pants Project
Author: Cat Clarke
Publication: March 7th, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Format: e-ARC, 272 pages
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Coming of Age, LGBTQ+
Read: March 2017
I received an e-ARC of this book from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
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.
I am a cisgender, straight woman and I know very little about transgender issues. If I say anything in this review that can be seen as offensive to the transgender community, please let me know!
Also here’s a review by a multigender writer which I found on this list of reviews of trans/non-binary literature by trans/non-binary reviewers. If you know of any #ownvoices reviews of this book, let me know so I can share them here!
Plot – 4 out of 5 stars
This book was really entertaining and cute. There’s a lot of passion and several themes that I enjoyed reading about and that I think are important within a middle grade specially. This book talks about acceptance, honestly, family, friendship and sticking up for yourself. Overall, it was a really nice read, super fast and just generally feel good even with the integration of serious topics.
Writing Style – 3 out of 5 stars
The writing style was really fast paced and easy to read. I could’ve finished the book in one sitting if I had had the time to do so. The main character has a very distinct voice and personality which I liked but it also felt very disjointed and there were some weird metaphors. Some things were not explained in the best way in my opinion and kind of made me raise my eyebrows a bit.
Characters – 3 out of 5 stars
I liked the characters in this book, most of all the relationships between them and how they grew and developed as the book went on. Liv was pretty great. He was very determined and had a lot of tenacity which I appreciated. He was very adamant about what he wanted to accomplish with The Pants Project and what it meant to him and I love his purpose. However, he also had a temper that had gotten him in trouble a few times and it was interesting to see that kind of growth, learning how to feel his anger without physically lashing out. He was really vulnerable and secretive for various reasons but he was really kind as well. Like I said above, I really liked the relationships that were explored in the story. The family dynamic is really great and Liv has a sibling with whom he gets along well, as well as you can with a younger sibling and I loved their relationship! There are quite a few side characters and the ones that had most page time I felt were well developed and interesting to read about. I want to mention that there is one character who does say transphobic and homophobic things. They are clearly condemned in the text and the author makes a point to call them out for being bad things to say and to believe but I want to make sure people know before reading in case it’s triggering.
I haven’t really heard much about this book around the book community. I didn’t really know what to expect but I ended up enjoying it though not as much as I hoped to.
The plot was cute. We follow Liv, a trans boy who decides to protest his middle school’s strict dress code since he’s forced to wear a skirt. I was glad that this book managed to maintain an entertaining story and funny atmosphere while still talking about serious issues. When I read Middle Grade, I’m always looking to see how engaging the story is because not every kid can keep their mind focused on reading for a long period of time (I know my students didn’t) so I liked that this one was easy to fly through. It was fun to read and I’m pretty sure that I could’ve read it in one sitting if I had had the time haha. I also feel like the book was really realistic about the middle school experience. I started getting bullied in 6th grade and while I never wish it on anyone, it definitely made me connect with Liv and his struggles. I didn’t really expect that because this book is so far removed from my own life. However, I enjoyed how honest the story was. The main character really struggled with the bullying and trying not to be affected by it but being kind of powerless to being hurt. That happened to me a lot, I knew that the only way to make them stop was to ignore them but that was almost impossible because they somehow find a way to hit you exactly where you don’t want them too! I empathized a lot with the main character because of that and I’m glad the author didn’t shy away from talking about and processing that experience. Yet my biggest issue was with the writing. Some of the explanations and descriptions the author used, specially to describe what being transgender is, kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I can’t really comment on them too much because I’m not trans, it’s not my experience, so I can’t say if it’s problematic or not, but they did make me take a step back and ponder over them. However, like I said above, I loved the family dynamics and the friendship that were developed in this book. There’s so much genuinely love between parents and children, from Liv’s two moms and her little brother to side character Jacob’s mom and dad and their protectiveness over him. It was so great to see because I’ve gotten used to no parents at all in YA, and I’m glad Middle Grade doesn’t do that. I felt like the ending was really nice and sweet and the perfect way to end the book.
Liv is very determined and headstrong. Right off the bat, we learn that he’s had trouble keeping control of his temper at school and that kind of affects the way his parents see him at the moment. Every is kind of afraid that he’ll have another outburst and that just makes him more angry because there’s a truth about himself he’s keeping from everyone he loves and that’s a lot of pressure to carry around. I loved his tenacity and how much he fought for his project. Every step back just created another way to overcome this bigger hurdle and I love how he slowly started letting other people help him out with it. Something I really enjoyed is how the author shaped his character development. There was almost like a step by step thought process of how he came to realize when he was wrong and why he was wrong and what to do to change that. It was really interesting though it felt sometimes like a very mature way of thinking for such a young character.
I’m only going to talk about the side characters very briefly. Jacob was awesome. I really loved the role he played and the person he became for Liv. Their friendship was really sweet, genuine and accepting which I loved. However, he has hypermobility and I wish that could’ve been explored more. There was only a bit of explanation and just a few examples of it, but I feel like a Middle Grade reader might not grasp the concept as quickly, so I would’ve liked more elaboration. Liv’s moms were great and I loved how they each had their own moniker to keep the reader straight but to also show their culture. Liv’s Mamma is Italian and they own a deli so there’s a lot of mention of food (which was amazing) and Italian words. It was just a great little extra thing that made the book that much more genuine. Lastly, I want to say that I liked the way the author dealt with friendships ending. It was really great to see a character be able to forgive someone who did them wrong but not having that mean that they have to let them walk back into their life.
Overall, I think this book was good. I liked the plot and it was very easy to read which I appreciated. I enjoyed that the main character had a lot of development and how much the relationships he was in mattered to the plot. I really want to see what trans reviewers have to say about the book but I think it’s a good Middle Grade.
So that’s it for this post! This post took me all day to do, I’ve been behind on all my reviews and posts because I moved and everything is upside down. Thanks again for sticking around guys! I really appreciate everyone still liking and commenting. I’m trying to get my groove back I promise. Thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you on my next post!