Symptoms of Being Human

Finished Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

First, a Q&A!

1)  Is there a Twitter pitch for Symptoms of Being Human?

​Here are a few: 
“I’m not a boy. I’m not a girl. I’m Riley.” Read all about it in SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN! #LGBTQYA
“★…A smart, funny, sharp-eyed force.” -@PublishersWkly. SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN is out today!  #LGBTQYA #yalit
“The 1st thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?” Read SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN now: 
2)  What was the inspiration for Symptoms of Being Human?
A transgender teen in my county sued the school district for the right to use the locker room that aligned with their gender identity rather than their birth-assigned sex. I was so inspired by their courage–imagine going to school the day after the story broke in the news. EVERYONE would know. I was so moved by their story, I knew I had to write something.
3)  What’s the first sentence/paragraph of Symptoms of Being Human?  (This won’t run until sometime in December, if that helps)
The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?​
4)  If you had an anonymous blog, what would it be about?
I love this question. I’d have three: one about random parenting moments, one about the travails of being a writer, and one for all my fandom obsessions: mostly Harry Potter and Star Wars.
5)  If you could make one book mandatory, what would it be?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. It’s ​perfect for any age, it’s got heart, it’s got good versus evil, and most of all, it challenges your imagination.
6)  What are your five favorite books? (You can do authors, if it’s easier)
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
11-22-63 by Stephen King
7)  What 2016 releases are you excited for?
There are too many to list, but I’ve read a few of the debuts coming out in 2016, and I will recommend them here:
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. It’s the kind of book I want to write. Deeply moving, real, and sometimes hilarious and sad.
Save Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer. Creepy, beautiful, deep.
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. Fierce girl on a time traveling pirate ship. And the writing is SO GOOD.
Fenway & Hattie by Victoria J. Coe. A wonderfully funny and touching Middle Grade novel about a dog and his girl, from the dog’s POV.

Now on to the book!

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.”

This is an excellent book.

I’d heard of people being gender-fluid but I didn’t really know what that meant beyond “sometimes I feel like a girl; sometimes I feel like a guy.”  This book does an excellent job of explaining it without ever feeling preachy or like an issues book.

I especially love that Riley’s dad is a politician.  It would be hard enough to feel different anyway but to know that your different-ness could derail your dad’s job? I can’t even imagine that much pressure.

You should also know that we never learn whether Riley is a biological boy or girl, but also by the end, you’ll probably stop thinking about it.  (That’s such an amazing achievement; we are so conditoned to classify people and that’s one of the major ways we do it.)

Highly recommended.


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