As he explores his identity and finds his footing in middle school, a sixth grader stands up to his bully best friend.
White, cisgender boys Rick and Jeff have been best friends since the third grade. When they’re alone, Jeff shares his video games, but at school Jeff picks on other kids and talks about girls with ostentatious lasciviousness. Despite their connection, Rick knows he can’t tell Jeff that he wants to join their school’s Rainbow Spectrum, a safe space for LGBTQIAP+ students, or that he’s questioning his own sexuality. The more Rick learns about himself, the more he realizes he needs to hold Jeff accountable for his behavior. An honest relationship develops between Rick and his cosplay-loving grandfather. Grandpa Ray reassures and supports Rick when he comes out as asexual. Adults in the story model moments of vulnerability and admit mistakes. Gino seamlessly introduces language to describe a variety of sexualities and gender identities through the perspective of Rick, who is learning many of the words for the first time. Although the book shares characters with Gino’s Stonewall Award–winning George (2015), it stands alone. The cast (including students of color) represents a spectrum of genders and sexualities with an emphasis on self-identification and encouragement of exploration.
A game-changing ace. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-13)