Book 28: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

I am going to mirror what everyone else has said about this book: This book is important, and this book is needed. It was the most educational fictional read I have had dealing with gender identity. I am so upset that it took me this long to read it.

This book made me feel like an asshole, and I don’t even mind. I needed to feel like an asshole for it all to click in my brain. I found myself wondering about Riley’s birth-sex and how gender-fluidity effects sexual identity. That is none of my business. As a cis-gender male, I am lucky in the fact that I never have people ask me personal questions about my genitals, transitioning choices, etc.

This book stars Riley, a politician’s child. Riley struggles with anxety due to gender dysphoria (and general anxiety of being outed or called out). Riley is a mostly sweet kid that struggles with something the majority of society does not understand. That needs to change. Gender-fluid is real, and it needs to be discussed.

The author does a great job of never revealing anything about birth-sex, which makes this book that much more powerful. I feel that this book was a solid first attempt for a debut author, but it still fell a little short of perfect. The voice of the character was there for a good majority of the book, but an adult voice crept in a little too frequently. I do not think it was enough to deter anyone from reading this book, but it was definitely enough to keep this book off of my “best list.”

I think this book might’ve had one too many cliches thrown in, and it definitely wasn’t fully developed. I think it is easy for first time authors to get caught up in the character development, and then, forget the plot needs developed too. The blog portion of this book seemed half-baked, and I think the relationships with the friends could have been stronger (especially since they seem to be what helps Riley get through everything).

I am giving this book 4.1 stars, and I will say that the topic and content of this book was what drove the book up so high. This author has great things in his future, but I think the first attempt was a little focused on getting the story out there and not so much on perfecting Riley’s world.

HOWEVER, Solo is one of my favorite characters that I’ve read in a while. He was the true dynamic character of this book. I want a spin off story of him. Maybe Solo: the Nerd Strikes Back (the College Years of Jason Solomona)?

For readers, give this book a chance. It will teach you so much, and it is necessary for us to be understanding of what others go through. It might not be a perfect book, but you will still want to finish it and know what will happen to Riley, Bec, and Solo.

For libraries, even though the book isn’t perfect. I think every library needs this book (no matter the size).

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