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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Character, Driven by David Lubar

Cliff's life changes when he sees Jillian for the first time. Yes, she is that beautiful. She is new to school, and everyone notices her when she walks into class. Cliff knows he does not have chance with her but that doesn't keep his mind from thinking up things to say to her.

Cliff is telling us the story of his senior year. Jillian is only one part of it. His dad lost his job and is pathological about saving money. Cliff works two jobs to contribute to the money his mom brings home from working at a bakery. Cliff's dad is constantly harping about what Cliff cannot do because it is a waste of money (like go to a concert of one of  his favorite bands). His dad also tells Cliff he is wasting his time with art. Cliff is not sure what he wants to do with his life, but he would like art to be an option.

Cliff has two best friends, Butch and Robert. Butch has changed her name many times since he's known her. She is "a little twisted, but in a good way" (her skull collection is a good example). Robert moved from Jamaica. Both are very smart and 'fight' with each other constantly.

Then there's Jimby whose mother drank a lot while she was pregnant. As described by Cliff, it messed up Jimby's brain a bit, but he would take a beating for Jimby. Cliff tries to help Jimby whenever he can.

Cliff knows he is writing us a story and makes occasional references to remind us. In reality of course, it is David Lubar who has (once again) given the reader a story filled with humor and poignancy. There are some basic truths to be found alongside the funny musings of Cliff.

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

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Mercedes has sex with virgin guys. She wants to teach them so they will give their girlfriends a better first time than she had. It's not just physical instruction; she tells them how to dress and behave and where to go on dates. She is just providing a service.

She has to keep her sex life a secret (particularly from her best friend Angela) which is difficult because she has helped so may guys (even she is kind of appalled at the number). She thinks the boys will never tell anyone for fear of their girlfriends finding out. If it were to get out...her life would be over.

Mercedes' sex life is not all about virgins. She has a weekly Wednesday 'date' with her chemistry partner Zach. He wants her as a girlfriend, but she wants none of it. She likes their arrangement just the way it is.

Mercedes is just trying to bide her time until she can go to MIT next fall to study chemistry, but life is complicated. Mercedes' dad left when she was young and her mom might as well be gone to for the lack of attention (let alone affection) she shows to her only daughter. Mercedes at least has Angela, although it is becoming more difficult to face her. Angela started a prayer group that is only attended by Mercedes and Angela's boyfriend (who Angela won't have sex with until they are married).  Even the new girl Faye (who is gorgeous and seems to catch Zach's attention) is confusing Mercedes. Is Faye flirting with her or just wanting to be frieds?

Mercedes thinks she is in control, but nothing is as it seems. There is a lot more to Mercedes and this story than sex.

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