Book Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

GENRE: 

Young Adult, Contemporary

PAGES:

335 pages

PART OF A SERIES?:

Standalone Novel

RELEASE DATE: 

February 2nd 2016

YOU CAN FIND THE BOOK AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR THE FOLLOWING LINKS:

GoodReads

IndieBound

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Book Depository

iBooks

Google Play

Author’s Website

GOODREADS SUMMARY: 

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

MY REVIEW

This book took me entirely too long to read but I am so seriously glad that I finally read it. First off, I have to give Jeff a ton of props for writing this amazing book, about a character that we don’t see often in books, for creating a dynamic and layered character and for putting Riley into the hands of teenagers who may feel incredible kinship with Riley.

This is the first time that I’ve read a story about a gender fluid individual and I say, its about time. I cannot and will not ever be ever to understand what it is like to be confused about my gender. I have always been incredibly sympathetic to this and I’ve always wanted to learn more, to try to understand, to try and educate myself and this book did such a wonderful job of it. To be in Riley’s head while they struggled with their gender, and what that meant as a teenager in high school, whether everyone is constantly judging you, gave me more of an idea of what it was like, and how incredibly hard, uncomfortable, hopeless, helpless and confusing it might be. I admit, there were times when I really super wanted to know what Riley’s biological gender was, but the more the story went on, the more that I got to know Riley, the less I cared and I think that is important. Riley is human and familiar and has likes and dislikes and has doubts and has hobbies and crushes and just doesn’t know what gender they fit in perfectly but they don’t. And that’s okay.

Its a funny story but also an emotional one and a hard one. Being in Riley’s head makes this so real, makes all the teens, all the people, who are gender fluid and had to go through the process and the struggle to figure out what that even means. i enjoyed it from beginning to end. Even though I have never experienced this exact situation, I have gone through experiences of trying to figure out who I am. Coming out as bisexual…god, just figuring out what that is and what it means, was such a struggle, especially after being told you could only be one way or the other and its so insanely confusing and I felt a connection with Riley because of the confusion they had and because of all the struggle they went through. I think more books like this should exist and I’ve seen the reaction from teenagers and young adults to Jeff’s book, I’ve seen it on Twitter and Instagram and GoodReads and in real life and its powerful and its magical.

I already loved Jeff as a person because he’s so kind and he’s funny and he’s unique and he has a way with words that makes you feel something and he does the same thing in his book. I absolutely cannot wait to see what he does in the future because this book was brilliant, emotional and so so needed.

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