Rick, by Alex Gino, is the sequel to the award winning middle grade novel George. In Rick, characters from the first book have moved onto middle school, which brings new questions about identity, friendship and fitting in. Jessica, the transgender main character from the first book, is a secondary character, who is happy to be herself in her new school. However, the sequel's main story focuses on Rick, who is starting to question whether he is asexual, since he doesn't feel attracted to girls or boys.
Importantly, this novel shows Rick's journey in figuring out his own identity. Along the way he has support, particularly from his grandfather. While Rick's father suggests he is a late bloomer, his grandfather says, "maybe you're blooming now, and you're just not the kind of flower he was expecting." This is a beautiful message of acceptance and support. Interestingly, the author challenges expectations, since Rick finds support not from younger members of his family, but from his grandfather who is willing to listen with an open heart.
The book prominently features the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at Rick's middle school, which is called the Rainbow Spectrum. I particularly enjoyed seeing the depiction of a middle school GSA in fiction. In addition to offering support and information to Rick as he comes to understand his own identity, it also provides excellent background information for the reader about various LGBTQIAP+ identities. The discussion is easily understandable for upper elementary and middle school students.
As Rick better understands his own identity, he starts to question his friendship with his best friend Jeff. With the support of his new friends at the Rainbow Spectrum, Rick learns to stand up against Jeff's homophobia and cruel behaviour. This book offers important information relating to identity, friendship and courage for middle grade students and deserves a place next to George on your shelf.