Friday, February 26, 2016

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

3 Stars

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

And that’s one thing you’ll never find out, so it’s better to go in knowing it. Riley Cavanaugh’s story is one you probably haven’t read before – that of a gender fluid teenager. As the book says regarding gender . . .

“Honestly, there’s so much information out there, and a lot of it contradicts itself. The pronouns and the terminology, it’s very complex.”

It is and that’s why it’s so important that MANY stories like this get written. For Riley, gender identification works as “a dial, not a switch.” Sometimes Riley feels feminine, some days masculine. However, Riley always remains “gender neutral” due to the fact that he/she has not yet come out to the parental units (or anyone else for that matter).

You’re probably wondering why the low(ish) rating if I thought this was such an important book, huh? Well, the problem for me (dear trolls, really think a second about coming to any reviews on a book about treating others with respect and then commencing to disrespect the reviewer) was with the execution. Riley was not a very likeable character for me throughout the majority of the story. He/she was quick to take offense at nearly everything and everyone while being super quick to place labels on others immediately without giving it second thought. And while Riley did end up experiencing horrible things that no one should ever have to, the words of one of the characters early in the story really rang true . .

“High school sucks for everyone.”

Okay, maybe not everyone, but for a lot of people. You just have to seek out the ones who will accept you for you . . .

Palm Springs commercial photography

Another issue I had with the story was the parents. It was refreshing to actually have parents in a YA novel, but these two were pretty terrible. To begin with, there are only 535 people in Congress period. Of those there are even fewer of breeding age so seriously with the “can’t come out because my dad is running for reelection” storyline. It’s hard enough to come out if your parents are Average Joes so there was no need for Riley’s father to be anything other than that. Speaking of coming out. It’s effing 2016. Riley’s parents obviously loved him/her and were simply not sure of what was going on with regard to Riley’s gender/sexuality. The idea that parents like that would never bother asking questions or offer support was not realistic to me at all. Speaking as a straight old lady, we may not always understand everything, but parents like Riley’s were the type who would listen and accept without judgment.

Finally, the message itself. It was wonderful, but it was repeated sooooooo many times that it became almost preachy. This book could have easily been cut by 50-100 pages to eliminate the repetitiveness.

Bottom line is this was a good addition to the world of LGBTQIA young adult literature and will hopefully help to finally get the message to sink in that . . .

“Maybe blending in is overrated.”

Palm Springs commercial photography

Parental warning: This book deals with heavy subject matter such as bullying, suicide and rape. While no graphic details are included, this is a book I would encourage you to read with your child so you can answer any questions.

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