Title: Symptoms of Being Human
Author: Jeff Garvin
Synopsis: 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.
Rating: 4 Stars
Review: This book has been on my TBR ever since it came out months ago, but I’ve only just been able to finally read it, and honestly, I wasn’t disappointed.
“The world isn’t binary. Everything isn’t black or white, yes or no. Sometimes it’s not a switch, it’s a dial. And it’s not even a dial you can get your hands on; it turns without your permission or approval.”
Riley’s gender fluid – but also so far in the closet that he/she’s almost in Narnia. Riley also suffers from anxiety, which isn’t made any better by his/her dad running for re-election as a Congressman. Add onto that the normal stress of starting at a new school, and you’ve got a pretty messed up day to day life. Things start to seem a little better though, when Riley starts writing a blog under a pseudonym about being a gender fluid teenager, and he/she actually finds a cause to get behind.
I absolutely loved this book from start to end – especially the character of Riley him/herself. One of my own original characters is a gender fluid character called Riley, so I found myself attached to this Riley from the start because of that, but as the book went on, I genuinely found myself empathising with this Riley and what they were going through.
I’m gender fluid. Not stupid.
I just loved Riley altogether – Riley’s snarky and sassy and will give as good as they get, but they’re also very emotional, and insightful. Some particular parts of the book just explain gender fluidity so well, even to someone who already understands it well enough.
It’s like I have a compass in my chest, but instead of north and south, the needle moves between masculine and feminine.
One of the things I really appreciate as well, is that despite the events that happen near the end of the book, we never find out what biological sex Riley is – because it doesn’t matter. Riley is both a boy and a girl and somewhere in the middle, and the point of this whole narrative is that it doesn’t matter what’s between Riley’s legs, or between anyone’s. It’s the person who matters, not their genitals. That’s just a lovely concept, isn’t it?
As for the supporting characters, I found Riley’s friends Solo and Bec to be a little off at the start, but I warmed to them quickly. I ended up disliking both Riley’s parents through most of the book, just by how they were acting, but they redeemed themselves eventually.
Want to hear some of my favourite parts? Of course you do. Here you go:
“People do judge books by their covers; it’s human nature. They react to the way you look before they hear a single word that comes out of your mouth.”
“My mom says crying is just your body expelling all the bad stuff. Like a sneeze. Like your soul sneezing.”
“That’s none of your business,” I say. “And, while I’m flattered by your interest, you’re really not my type.”
I give this book a four star rating because despite loving it, and having absolutely devoured it within the course of one day, it doesn’t make me want to squeal with excitement and fangirl about like other books do. It’s great, but not fangirl-worthy for me at least.