A's Reviews > Symptoms of Being Human

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
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it was ok
bookshelves: contempary, queer, young-adult, gender-queer, trans

Oh man, buckle in, I have a lot to say about this novel.

1) I'm genderqueer, but I don't speak for all genderqueer folks; 2) I'm not a teen reviewing this novel; 3) I was really uncomfortable with this book.

A few minutes of searching leads me to believe that Garvin is a cis/straight man writing about a genderqueer teen, and let me tell you, it comes off as extremely exploitative. Riley's story reads as a vehicle (a hamfisted and ill executed) for trans and genderqueer 101, which great! But when it comes off this way written by someone who isn't in the community...it just makes me extremely uncomfortable. It was clunky and came off as an after school special heavy on the definitions. The definitions weren't wrong, and I think it's great that someone could get exposure to them through this novel...but as a grown genderqueer folk it just rang so hollow.

The author's notes indicate that this story started when someone made a nasty comment about a young transgender kid who was suing their school to be treated as their actual gender, and how no one tried to counter that comment. Which...fine, something like that should have prompted the author to think about how wrong it was that no one spoke up for the trans kid. But it seems like a bad reason to write a novel.

It really feels like the author realized that this was a topic that could sell novels! No one has really done a novel about a genderqueer kid! And I couldn't shake that feeling throughout my reading. Also there were a lot of things not mentioned, like neutral pronouns (which...hello, should have been a shoe in) that felt weird for being absent.

The characters felt flat, there was some good stuff going on with Solo and Bec but it wasn't developed enough for me. Riley and their family seemed ill defined, I wanted to know more about them. I wanted to really have a reason to care about Riley, but I didn't.

I guess...the best thing about this book, is the author never made Riley's gender assigned at birth known, which thank god!
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Reading Progress

September 29, 2016 – Started Reading
September 29, 2016 – Shelved
September 30, 2016 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by James (new)

James I was interested and quite excited about this too, because you're right - i've never seen any novels before this with a genderqueer character! I'm rather disappointed and, sadly, also not very surprised to hear it was a bit crap.

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