Jamie by L. D. Lapinski

The Blurb On The Back:

Have you ever had a secret?

The sort you lie awake at night thinking about?

I have.

A couple of years ago, I told my friends my secret.  About me not being a girl or a boy.  About me being non-binary.  It was a little weird at first, but now things are pretty good. 

Or at least, things were pretty good.

Until we started Year Six.  Until we had to start thinking about secondary schools.  Until I realised there was one school for boys, and one for girls, but no place for me.

That was when everything went wrong

JAMIE was released in the United Kingdom on 30th March 2023.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

You can order JAMIE by L. D. Lapinski from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

11-year-old Jamie Rambeau lives with their mum and dad and older brother Olly in a town near Nottingham.  Two years ago, they came out to their family and their best friends Ash and Daisy that they were non-binary (did not identify as being a girl or a boy).  It was a frightening thing to do, but their family and friends have accepted who they are and they also feel supported by their teachers at school.

But Jamie is now in Year 6 and they have to decide where they want to go to secondary school.  The problem is that in their town there are only two real choices – Queen Elizabeth’s High School for Girls or St Joseph’s Academy, which is a school for boys.  There are no co-educational schools and so Jamie will have to choose to identify as a girl or a boy, neither of which matches their actual identity.  Worse than that, given that Daisy is already signed up to Queen Elizabeth’s and Ash is signed up to St Joseph’s, Jamie is also going to lose one of their best friends.

Jamie doesn’t think this is fair to non-binary people like themselves, and so the only thing for it is to raise their voice and advocate for themselves, even if that means raising a fuss …

L. D. Lapinski’s LGBTQ+ friendly novel for readers aged 9+ is a compelling and entertaining look at what it means to be non-binary and to campaign for what you believe in.  Lapinski does a great job of explaining what being non-binary means and includes definitions of the various terms used.  I particularly admired how they show how allies can find it difficult to understand what it means to be non-binary and pressure non-binary people to conform.

I don’t think I’ve read a children’s book with a non-binary main character before and one of the things I really liked about this book is how Lapinski explains what being non-binary means and also includes definitions of other terms, e.g. pronouns, so you can understand what Jamie is talking about.  Some of this is done by having Jamie explain it to the reader but some of it is by including little snippets of definitions and explanations, which could have made the book clunky in terms of pacing but actually works very well.

Also good is the fact that although Jamie is the main character and their story is important, Lapinski shows that Jamie is not perfect and has Ash and Daisy call them out on how selfish some of their behaviour has been, which forces Jamie to consider what they have been doing.  Where Lapinski really come into their own though is in showing how even though Jamie’s mum and dad and head teacher have been supportive and try to be allies, they equally let them down at key moments because they don’t really get how important it is to Jamie to be non-binary.  Lapinski handles this in a sensitive way because you can see the exasperation that Jamie’s parents feel and how they want to be supportive but equally think that it should not be a big deal for them to just pick a school.  Also worth mentioning is how this behaviour is more devastating to Jamie than the out and out discrimination they face from a council worker when they try to raise their concerns in a more approved way.

Daisy and Ash are well drawn for supporting characters – especially Ash, who appears to be neuro divergent and the way that Daisy and Jamie care about him and how he would cope at St Joseph’s on his own is quite moving.  I also particularly enjoyed Jamie’s older brother Olly, who is out and proud and shown as being flamboyant without being stereotypical.  If Lapinski ever wanted to write a spin off about Olly, then I would definitely like to read it.

All in all I thought this was a cracking book that not only works for younger readers but is also worth a read if you’re a grown-up who wants to understand what being non-binary means.  I will definitely be checking out Lapinski’s other work on the strength of this. 

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