BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin [in School Library Journal]

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin on BookDragon via SLJ*STARRED REVIEW
“The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?” Keep wondering: Riley Cavanaugh isn’t answering.

Riley is gender-fluid, information only Riley’s psychiatrist is privy to, while Riley’s conservative congressman father and teacher mother remain clueless. Between medications and therapy, Riley is struggling to just live life.

When Doctor Ann suggests Riley might choose an activity “to stop thinking about you so much,” Riley reluctantly tries blogging – as Alix. A life-or-death incident involving a desperate teen takes the blog viral, drawing both support and attacks. Among the trolls is a possible schoolmate determined to viciously expose Riley.

Debut author Jeff Garvin blends snark and poignancy, anguish and hope, deception and authenticity, in a timely narrative about contemporary teen life beyond binary norms. Casting a distinctly male voice, Tom Phelan, is not an obvious choice: Riley was designated female at birth and is not taking hormones and is therefore unlikely to sound like Phelan. How differently Riley presents on the silent page vs. audibly is intriguing to ponder.

Verdict: A rule-breaking, gender-illuminating, pioneering audiobook every library should acquire.

Review: “Multimedia,” School Library Journal, July 1, 2016

Readers: Young Adult

Published: 2016


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