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, 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. And 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.
Symptoms of Being Human, a debut novel by Jeff Garvin, is just the kind of book the LGBT+ community needs. It devours the We Need Diverse Books anthem and gives it an entire new meaning. With snarky characters, an unending spectrum of personality, and bravery, Symptoms provides a unique perspective gender fluid people have been waiting for.
Apart from the book being downright profound, it’s absolutely hilarious. Not only characters like Solo and Bec, but Riley themself is quick-witted and sarcastic. They’re able to explain things about being gender fluid- And other concepts that come up, as well -in a refreshing way that takes away from the often serious and/or uncomfortable tone we’re used to. Some of Jeff Garvin’s favourite parts of the book was the blog posts, and Bec and Solo, for good reason.
One of Symptoms greatest strengths would have to be its wide range of character personalities. Each has a distinct voice and role while managing to be abstract at the same time. Characters often straddled the line between friend and love interest, between enemy and friend, until everything came together clearly. Each progression was believable and interesting, something you think would be hard to achieve with such a wide range. Jeff’s research- Mainly first-person accounts and primary resources -helped him reach a surprising accuracy. This is the kind of representation we’ve been demanding.
Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin might just be one of the strongest books in the LGBT+ community. It’s distinct, brave, and honest.
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