"If You Believe In Mermaids... Don't Tell" is a new novel by A.A. Phillips that would be a welcome addition to the bookshelf of anyone from ages 9-12. After that, it'd still be an easy quick read, but probably too easy and quick, even for a good story. That said, I can't recall ever reading a book that is specifically about not really fitting into a gender. I think this book could help people who are dealing with gender identity issues but aren’t necessarily transgender.
Todd is a pre-teen boy and for years his father has been pushing him into sports camps every summer, and putting him on sports teams during the school year. When Todd informs his father that this year he wants to hang out by the community pool and dive all summer his father does not accept this as a reasonable way to spend the summer.
His father strongly believes that boys are meant to play sports and diving is not a sport. Todd is handed a stack of sport camp brochures and is made to choose one. However, slipped in between the brochures for sports camps is a brochure to nature camp. Todd chooses the nature camp because even though bugs gross him out he believes that anything is better then a sports camp. Besides, the nature one looks promising with the hopes of a decent lake where Todd can practicing diving.
At the nature camp Todd meets Twig, the camp counselor, Brad the tough guy, Sylvie the model type, and Olivia the outcast and "weirdo." Todd knows that Brad is just like all the guys he hates at school, so he tries his best to put on a show -- walking, talking and acting like a guy. But Todd knows it’s no use; eventually Brad will find out he's different.
Todd likes to play with Barbies, dress up, and do other “girly” things. When he steals a Barbie from a local toy store, he knows it will get him in trouble, but I don’t want to say too much.
Although I think it's great to have a book that deals with someone who doesn't really conform to any gender, I think it could also be confusing for some kids who read this and don’t have a clue about people without a defined gender.
As a teen reading this book, I felt like yelling at the author because I understood the points she just kept going on about. Symbolism can be a great writing tool, but in this book the symbolism is blatantly obvious and the author uses it way too much. That being said, for a child that's 9-12 years old who's just beginning to learn about symbolism, this would be a great tool to use to teach them about it because it was pretty obvious.