This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel is an absolutely wonderful book that I recommend with all my heart also to YA readers, even though it for most part has the parents’ perspective. This is such a witty, sweet, honest, gripping and thought-provoking read that addresses so many important questions.
The book is about the large, gorgeous, lively Walsh-Adams family and their five sons, and what happens when the youngest one, the extraordinarily verbal little Claude, explains that he wants to be a girl scientist when he grows up. Laurie Frankel does such an amazing job in describing how important it is for Claude to wear dresses to feel comfortable and as him/herself even though he is not yet clear with that he is a girl. She also explains so well how the parents find themselves on new and scary terrain, trying to balance Claude’s safety and happiness with the older brothers worry about the comments and bullying both they and Claude will be victims to. After an incident, the whole family moves to a new city, where Claude blossoms as Poppy. The problem is that they have kept the past a secret, allowing Poppy to be a girl just like anyone else, which makes things easier for Poppy in a way, but increasingly difficult on her brothers. The story takes a darker turn when she is outed and Poppy and her parents must find their footing again.
This is a wonderfully contradictory story. So painful at times, yet so heartwarming and joyful, written with such a humor and witty language. And with so much knowledge. Laurie Frankel has herself a daughter who was born a boy, which is evident from the depth and understanding of what the family goes through in the book. I know that I will keep coming back to this book and the questions about how to best support and protect a child who isn’t identifying itself as its genders, but still not entirely as the other either. I loved the way the book does not give any definitive answers, but rather opens of for discussions about what it really means to be true to yourself; suggesting that there are times when neither right nor left works and, instead, you have to go straight ahead, through the great unknown of the middle.
And I was so moved by Laurie’s explanation about the inspiration behind the book and the differences between a novel you write and your own life, in that the novel should be perilous, unpredictable, full of near misses and heartbreak, but the latter you want as plotfree as possible and a world where anyone can be who they are and become their most wanted , loved and appreciated selves.
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