book review

Lily and Dunkin|Book Review



Title: Lily and Dunkin

Author: Donna Gephart

Pages: 352


Synopsis: Sometimes our hearts see things our eyes can’t.

Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you’re in the eighth grade.

Dunkin Dorfman, birth name Norbert Dorfman, is dealing with bipolar disorder and has just moved from the New Jersey town he’s called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse.

One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change

Non-Spoiler Review


This book is truly something. There are two main characters: Lily and Dunkin. Both of them are starting their eighth grade year. Norbert is Dunkin’s real name. He has just moved from New Jersey and is currently living with his mom and grandma in his grandma’s house. One morning Norbert decides to take a stroll to the nearest Dunkin Donuts. On his way, he passes by a house. And in the driveway, a girl catches his eye. Lily. Lily was not born a girl. She was born a male. Her birth name is Timothy, Tim for short. No one knows that she feels like an imposter in her own body. Except for her mom, sister, best friend Dare, and her dad who doesn’t quite accept her. While Dunkin struggles with his bipolar disorder, Lily struggles with finally being ready to be her true self out in the open.

What drew me into picking this book up was the part about these two characters being in eighth grade and the fact that this is a middle grade book. I was curious how the author wrote about these two subjects intended for such a young audience. And I think she did an amazing job doing it. She captures the struggles with bipolar disorder and how hard it can be to be your true self when others will probably judge you for it in a perfect way for the intended audience.


Lily/Tim. Lily is a transgender girl. From very young she knew the body she was born into was not the body for her. She belonged in a girls body but was trapped in a boys. While her mom, sister, and best friend Dare accept her for who she is, her dad isn’t quite there yet. He still calls her Tim, son, and frowns upon her when she wears dresses and makeup. Throughout the book we see the weight her dad’s opinion of her holds her down. Just when she is ready to take a step forward and be her true self, her dad is there to have her take one step back. I loved watching Lily grow as a character. In the beginning she isn’t ready to quite be herself beyond the comfort of her home. She still has her friend(s) call her Tim out in public and she still dresses like a boy out in public. But just watching her grow and take all the small steps to becoming herself was just heartwarming. I was rooting for her the whole time.

Dunkin/Norbert. Dunkin to me was a frustrating character. Some of the choices he made in this book just made me mad. But he is an eighth grader who is discovering who he is and where he fits in the world so poor choices are a given. Though Dunkin makes some mistakes, he realizes what he should be doing. But still, he makes the same mistakes. I liked that Dunkin realized the actions he should be doing but isn’t because he chose a different path. And we see the sort of toll these actions take on Dunkin. Dunkin suffers from bipolar disorder. Now I don’t really know much about bipolar disorder so I can’t exactly say if the representation is good. But at the end of the book we read about where the author got the background from Dunkin’s story and we learn that her son suffers from bipolar disorder as well. So because of this, I believe the representation is pretty good. However I read some Goodreads reviews that some people think otherwise so I’m not sure how well the representation really is. But throughout the whole book we see how the disorder effects Dunkin and what happens when he doesn’t take his medication.

The Plot

I liked the plot of the story. Two kids, each dealing with their own struggles while navigating the tricky waters of eighth grade. Watching these two characters overcome their obstacles and grow comfortable in their own skin and with who they are was just heartwarming. Throughout this book I was currently rooting for both of these character till the last page. The ending was in my opinion the best part of the book. It was just the sweetest ending and I was smiling from ear to ear. I honestly could not think of a better way for the author the wrap up the story and the characters than she did.


Included in these 300 pages is representation of both LGBTQ+ and mental health. First I want to talk about the LGBTQ+ representation. In my opinion, this book does a good job of showing representation. It shows the struggles one can face with not only people in the world who don’t understand, but a family member who doesn’t understand. It shows how both of these negative actions can effect the person. It also shows the struggles the person has within them. In the beginning of the book, Lily isn’t ready to be Lily outside the house just yet. I believe this book does a good job showing the readers what a young LGBTQ+ kid struggles with. Now, onto bipolar disorder. Again, in my opinion I believe the author does a good job representing bipolar disease. Now I understand that not all cases of bipolar disease are the same. But with that being said, I feel like the author showed the basics of sorts of how the bipolar disorder can effect a person. As I said earlier, the author’s own son is affected by the bipolar disorder. So with that being said, I feel like the author has firsthand knowledge of how the disorder affects the person, what their actions look like, and how it can affect those around the person. However, I saw one review on Goodreads that says there were some irregularities with Dunkin and most people who are bipolar. Some people might say because of that it isn’t a very good reputation of the bipolar disorder. But heres the thing, every person who deals with some kind of mental health issue or anything really, it isn’t always the same to everyone else who deals with it. I personally feel like there is really no way to really represent something because it isn’t always the same with everyone and the only way to represent something where is pertains to basically everyone is to describe it as the barest of what it is, and then at that is it doesn’t become a very good representation of the mental health for whatever the case may be.

Final Thoughts

I loved this book and it will probably make my top ten list for this year. I think that with the intended age group, the author did a really good job of representing both the LGBTQ+ community, more specifically those who are transgender as well as those who struggle with bipolar disorder. I think this is a book everyone should read because it really is such a heartwarming book that will have you grinning from ear to ear by the end.

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