Rick by Alex Gino

Published: 21st April 2020 (print)/22 April 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Press/Scholastic
Pages: 240/3 hrs and 27 mins
Narrator: Alex Gino
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

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.

This is set in the same universe as George and takes place a couple years after the events in that book but this time we focus on a different character. Rick, who we met as a side character before, now takes centre stage and we see him a little older, a little wiser but also a little more confused.  You do not need to have read George to understand this story but it was wonderful to see what happened after the events in that book even if it isn’t the focus of the story.

It was amazing to see this story grow and develop and see Rick grow and develop along with it. Rick and Jeff’s friendship is one that kids form when they’re young: easy, they have fun together, they have a great time, but as they both start to get older their different personalities start to develop and this is where conflictions can occur.

As readers we’re meant to think Jeff is a creep straight away even if Rick doesn’t see it or completely agree, as everything about Jeff’s language and behaviour is gross and/or offensive. My limited understanding of American middle school is that these kids are in year six. They are eleven and twelve years old and they’re talking about girls in totally creepy and sexist ways. It is one way to show how Rick feels by seeing him fight emotionally against what Jeff does and says, but he doesn’t stop how Jeff keeps objectifying these girls.

Rick’s dad is also a sexist and a creep, he says inappropriate things to Rick and I liked that Rick’s response to this is that he feels like he’s “coated in a sticky layer of ick” when he hears it. He also doesn’t like that people expect him to become a ‘hormonal beast’ now he’s in middle school. Which again, is now he’s twelve. Even at my age I feel dirty hearing that phrase.  I am not blaming Gino for this at all and I love that they highlight the weird and inappropriate language people use around kids of a certain age, especially boys. I love that our main character doesn’t feel comfortable hearing this kind of talk and it’s great that Gino shows him working out who he is and makes it ok that he feels confused about his identity.

There is a great representation and exploration of the LGBTQIA+ community and it was great to see kids this age be so supportive and open about who they are, as well as so understanding of those who are still trying to figure themselves out. The kids manage to teach the adults something and the story explores great themes like acceptance, understanding, and support.

Melissa (who we’re introduced to in George) is in the story and I loved seeing her again and seeing her story after the end of George but I also loved that she doesn’t take centre stage. Rick’s story isn’t connected to Melissa’s and while she is in his story, I love how Gino hasn’t connected the two stories in such an obvious way.

There are other things Gino explores about getting to know and understand family and accepting the differences and realising there is a lot more to a person than there first appears. The relationship he has with his grandpa is sweet and it was a nice safe place for Rick to talk about his feelings and not be ridiculed or embarrassed.

This is a fairly quick read but it covers a lot of topics and explores a range of important topics not only about the LGBTQIA+ community but also about being a good person, a good friend and knowing you have the ability to make big decisions even at such a young age. I can’t wait to see what else Gino does next because based on these last two books I can only imagine it’ll be just as wonderful.

You can purchase Rick via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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