Review: King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

King and the DragonfliesKing and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Poignant Queer Middle Grade.

After Kingston’s brother, Khalid, unexpectedly passes away, King is convinced he has transformed into a dragonfly.

He spends his afternoons down by the bayou where the dragonflies flit about in great numbers. He’s constantly searching for the one. The one that is Khalid.

One of King’s most distinct memories of his brother was when Khalid told him he should stop hanging out with his close friend, Sandy Sanders.

The reason, people think Sandy is gay. Khalid urges King to stay away from him because, ‘you don’t want people to think you’re gay too, do you?’

This hurt King. He never thought his brother could hurt him, but this did and he doesn’t truly understand why.

Now he fears something in him is wrong. There’s a pretty girl at school, his friend Jasmine, that likes him. King’s not sure he likes her that way though. He knows people expect him too, but it doesn’t feel right.

When Sandy goes missing, the entire town begins to search.

King is surprised when he ends up finding Sandy in a tent in his backyard. Sandy tells him his Father, who also happens to be local law enforcement, has been physically abusing him.

Devastated to hear what Sandy has been suffering through alone, King vows to help him. As the two rekindle their friendship, King begins to vocalize how he is feeling about himself and his sexuality.

This is such a beautifully told story with so many great discussion points for young readers. And let’s be honest, older readers as well.

In addition to being a story of a boy discovering his truth, there are also examinations of grief, race and power.

I enjoyed the scenes between King and his parents, who are both struggling with their own grief after the loss of Khalid. The conversations between King and his Father were especially moving.

Callender did a phenomenal job of writing King’s character in regards to his feelings of trying to fit the mould that others expected him to fit; like trying to fit a circle into a square hole.

His inner dialogue as he tried to work out for himself what he was feeling seemed so real. I wanted to grab his hand and tell him it would be okay, but in our world, maybe that’s not true. I want to believe that it is and Callender definitely makes it seem like that is possible.

I highly recommend this story, well, to the world.

Everyone should read this.

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