The Pants Project

Title: The Pants Project

Author: Cat Clarke

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

I love the premise of this book: 11-year-old Liv likes the uniform at her new middle school (especially the tie) but hates wearing the skirt. Right from the start, it’s impossible not to see the dress code is sexist and archaic. But when we learn that it is especially difficult for Liv to wear a skirt because she’s really a boy, readers are even more more inclined to cheer for Liv as he challenges the rules.

Liv makes three attempts to change the dress code. First, by wearing pants under the skirt. Second, by talking to the principal (who’s response is totally unrealistic and unhelpful). And then, by starting a petition. It’s the fourth plan that actually succeeds but I won’t spoil the surprise.

Complicating things for Liv is the school bully, Jade, who makes fun of his two moms, and his best friend choosing to hang out with the popular kids (including Jade) instead of Liv. We never really understand why Jade is so mean to everyone but it’s great that Liv tries to protect others and eventually stands up to Jade. Along the way, Liv gets a lot of support from Jacob who makes a bad first impression (asking “what kind of name is Liv?” and “isn’t it a bit too butch for you?”) before becoming Liv’s best friend. Jacob is at times too good to be true (making a lot of very mature statements and observations) and also has secrets of his own.

The main theme of this book is being yourself. Liv first tells Jacob that he’s trans and then his moms but the conversations remain on the surface. Even though Liv is older than George, there’s no urgency around puberty – yet. For now, Liv’s just happy wearing pants. “Before you know it, lots of small steps can cover a lot of ground.”