Middle Grade Review: Frankie & Bug (Gayle Forman)


About This Book:

In the debut middle grade novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Gayle Forman comes a poignant and powerful coming-of-age story that follows a young girl and her new friend as they learn about family, friendship, allyship, and finding your way in a complicated world.

It’s the summer of 1987, and all ten-year-old Bug wants to do is go to the beach with her older brother and hang out with the locals on the boardwalk. But Danny wants to be with his own friends, and Bug’s mom is too busy, so Bug is stuck with their neighbor Philip’s nephew, Frankie.

Bug’s not too excited about hanging out with a kid she’s never met, but they soon find some common ground. And as the summer unfolds, they find themselves learning some important lessons about each other, and the world.

Like what it means to be your true self and how to be a good ally for others. That family can be the people you’re related to, but also the people you choose to have around you. And that even though life isn’t always fair, we can all do our part to make it more just.


*Review Contributed by Karen Yingling, Staff Reviewer*

1980s LGBTQIA+ Issues
Bug (Beatrice) is looking forward to spending the summer of 1987 hanging out at Venice Beach with her older brother Daniel, just like they have for the past several years. When Danny wants more "space", their mother decides that she will instead have to hang out at their apartment. One neighbor, Hedvig, watches out for her, as does Phillip. When Phillip's nephew, Frankie, shows up from Ohio to spend the summer, Bug is expected to hang out with him, even though he doesn't like the beach. Instead, he is enthralled by the Midnight Marauder, who is terrorizing the area, bludgeoning unsuspecting victims. Bug's mother works for the local mayor's office, and keeps assuring them that they are safe, but they doubt her. When gangs of skinheads threaten Bug and her brother because of his Salvadoran looks, and Phillip is beaten up because he is gay, safety seems like a precarious state. Frankie becomes more comfortable in his new environment, and it turns out that he was sent to live with Phillip to get some "nonsense out of his system"-- Frankie is transgender, and wasn't even aware that there was a word for how he identified until he meets others like him in the area. When Aunt Teri comes to watch Bug (and reluctantly, Frankie), family secrets come out, and Bug must learn to make peace with her judgmental aunt and learn to support her new friend.
Good Points
There are a growing number of books addressing LGBTQIA+ issues in the 1980s, including Papademtriou's Apartment 1986 and Pixley's Trowbridge Road, and it's interesting to see this issue from a historical perspective. It's hard for younger readers to understand just how much things have changed. AIDS doesn't make the news quite as much today, but was certainly a huge concern at the time, and unfortunately, the views of this disease resulted in the mistreatment of the gay population. I did appreciate that Ryan White was mentioned as someone who was affected by this disease through a blood transfusion.

Bug's desire to hang out on the beach and explore her world might be novel to young readers who are never allowed out of the house without direct adult supervision, and the idea that Danny could be out because he was a boy will also be an indication that this is historical fiction. The vibrant culture of Venice Beach during this period of history is nicely explained, and while I'm not sure the Midnight Marauder was an actual person, the inclusion of this mystery is certainly in keeping with the news of the time.

Readers who enjoyed Lisa Bunker's Zenobia July or Gephardt's Lily and Dunkin and the sense of supportive community depicted in those books will find Bug's summer of growth and change an interesting time to visit.

*Find More Info & Buy This Book HERE!*

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