Monday, April 25, 2016

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

I have started a few books assuming the gender of a character only to find out in a few pages that I was wrong causing me to rethink how I picture them. With this book, that's part of the point. Riley is gender fluid. Some days, Riley feels like a girl and other days Riley feels like a boy.

Starting a new school, Riley wants to go unnoticed. One problem is that Riley sometimes wants to dress like a girl and sometimes like a boy. Riley would never be able to do that - at school or home. So Riley dresses neutral, fighting anxious feelings and possible panic attacks.

Only Riley's therapist knows about being gender fluid. Riley's parents don't even know. It would be a particular sticky issue for Riley's conservative congressman father who is running for reelection. As election day gets closer, it is increasingly difficult for Riley to find a way to get out of attending campaign events - they only bring on the worst panic attacks.

Riley's attempt to be invisible at school does not last long either. Riley does meet a cool guy named Solo on the first day. But is he interested in Riley as a guy friend or a girlfriend? Riley is also taken with Bec, a girl who may or may not be flirting with Riley. But the new potential friendships are overshadowed by the taunts of star football player, Jim Vickers, and his snotty girlfriend. Everything Riley feared is happening again.

Following the therapist's advice, Riley starts an anonymous blog about being gender fluid that quickly finds a following. It is the blog that drives Riley and the story forward.

Many things in life are not as straight forward as people would like them to be including gender. This story reminds us that people need to be accepted for who they are and given the chance to find out who that is. Riley is a character you will not easily forget.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

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