"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

16 March 2016

Symptoms of Being Human

Garvin, Jeff. Symptoms of Being Human. Balzer + Bray, 2016.

Riley is gender-fluid, but they aren't out to their parents, or really the world, yet. They're hoping that at their new, public high school, they can blend in enough and just be allowed to be themselves. This proves difficult, though, because Riley is the teenage child of a politician and is always, always in the spotlight.

Like other reviewers, I am glad for a young adult book depicting a gender fluid character. I'm glad for Riley's description of how they see themselves, how their gender is like a compass that sometimes points feminine, sometimes masculine, sometimes in between. Not once in this book is Riley's biological sex mentioned or hinted at, which emphasizes Riley's point: what's in their pants is none of our business.

I found the plot of this book to be very similar to older young adult books about gay and lesbian teens: Teen is different, teen hides and tells no one, teen is outed by circumstances beyond their control, teen and teen's family must recover. Does this type of situation still happen today? Definitely. I appreciated that Riley met some very accepting people who did not care about their gender identity/expression and also some of the unfortunate jerk-type people who decided to judge them because they are different. This wasn't a book that I loved, but it is an important one, because all of my patrons deserve both mirrors and windows in the library, and LGBT teens are the ones most lacking in that area.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: Riley mentions two incidents where their pants/underclothing are removed because another person wants to know what parts they have; more than a few transphobic and homophobic slurs as well; the jerk in the story does not magically learn his lesson and become a better human by the end of the book
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: None of the Above, Golden Boy, What We Left Behind

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