Title: Small Town Pride
Author: Phil Stamper
Length: 265 Pages
Category: Middle Grade Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: Just in time for Pride month, Small Town Pride is a book that needs to be given a place on middle school library shelves. It’s an uplifting story about the power of love and acceptance, and, of course, taking pride in who you are.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Jake is just starting to enjoy life as his school’s first openly gay kid. While his family and friends are accepting and supportive, the same can’t be said about everyone in their small town of Barton Springs, Ohio.
When Jake’s dad hangs a comically large pride flag in their front yard in an overblown show of love, the mayor begins to receive complaints. A few people are even concerned the flag will lead to something truly outlandish: a pride parade.
Except Jake doesn’t think that’s a ridiculous idea. Why can’t they hold a pride festival in Barton Springs? The problem is, Jake knows he’ll have to get approval from the town council, and the mayor won’t be on his side. And as Jake and his friends try to find a way to bring Pride to Barton Springs, it seems suspicious that the mayor’s son, Brett, suddenly wants to spend time with Jake.
But someone that cute couldn’t possibly be in league with his mayoral mother, could he?
Review: Phil Stamper’s Small Town Pride is a sweetly earnest—and earnestly sweet—middle grade novel about embracing who you are and discovering the meaning of pride. Jake has only recently come out to a few people at school, including his best friend Jenna. When he finally works up the courage to come out to his parents—even though he knows, without a doubt, that they’ll keep supporting and loving him unconditionally—he couldn’t have predicted his dad would be so enthusiastic to show his support that he’d hang a giant Pride flag from the pole in their front yard. The issue is that Jake had no intention of coming out to the entire village of Barton Springs in one massive and unmistakable display, but he leaves the flag up while he works out how he feels about it.
Jake might be the only out kid in the 8th grade, but he eventually comes to the conclusion that he can’t be the only queer person in the entire village. He gives a lot of thought to this as he ponders the meaning of pride and why he doesn’t know what it’s supposed to feel like or exactly what it is. When he finally comes to the conclusion that what Barton Springs needs is its very own Pride festival, he isn’t prepared for the political stonewalling from the mayor and town council, or to discover that some of his neighbors are blatant homophobes. Not that that will stop him and his parents and friends from trying to throw the best small town Pride festival Ohio has ever seen.
Jake finding support from his fellow classmates adds to the hope and warmth abundant in this story even as he faces resistance from certain adults, even his own uncle, whose heart and mind is changed without the excess drama that might have been tempting to confront if this book were aimed at older readers, which added to the feel-good positivity of the story. Jake’s cute neighbor, Brett, who also happens to be the mayor’s son and suspect by default, becomes something much more important to Jake than just a neighbor, classmate, and Jenna’s academic rival. Brett is the character who struggles on several levels and is burdened with the antithesis of Jake’s outwardly loving and supportive family.
Just in time for Pride month, Small Town Pride is a book that needs to be given a place on middle school library shelves and made accessible to tweens and young teens who may be just beginning to question and define who they are. It’s an uplifting story about the power of love and acceptance, and, of course, taking pride in who you are.
You can buy Small Town Pride here:
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