cover image If I Can Give You That

If I Can Give You That

Michael Gray Bulla. Quill Tree, $19.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-0630-9170-2

Trans 17-year-old Gael, who is white, has had trouble making friends in his Glenwood, Tenn., town; he assumes it’s because “people don’t really know what to do with me.” When his best and only real friend Nicole, a white, trans lesbian, persuades him to attend a meeting of the local LGBTQ youth support group, called Plus, he struggles to participate, feeling awkward, until he makes an unexpected connection with a Black, gay band geek, classmate Declan. As Gael opens up to Declan, he becomes more self-confident, even volunteering to fundraise for Plus. While his social life is blossoming, however, he struggles to care for his mother, who attempted suicide six years earlier and whose depression is worsening; navigate a fraught relationship with his emotionally distant father, newly back in town; and wrestle with a first crush that is complicated by dysphoria and questions surrounding his sexuality. Bulla (Letters to the Home) handles complex topics such as consent, gender and sexuality, and mental illness with nuance, and Gael’s sensitive first-person narration believably renders his internality and gradual growth in this confidently written portrait of a young queer person finding his way. Ages 14–up. Agent: Pete Knapp, Park and Fine Literary. (Feb.)