CW: transphobia, being kicked out, parental abuse, depression, anxiety and panic attacks, and isolation
This is one of those books that I had seen around, but wasn’t sure about. As y’all likely know by now, I’m not a huge fan of contemporary YA. It’s not a genre that I like very much because it’s usually romance and angst and, well, it annoys the hell out of me.
But, I loved this book.
Ben is nonbinary and they come out to their parents only for them to kick them out. They decide to go live with their sister, Hannah, who was also kicked out by their parents. She’s married to Thomas, a school teacher at a high school that Ben starts going to. There, Ben meets Nathan, a queer POC guy.
There were three main things in this book that blew me away. First, the wonderful diversity. There are two nonbinary characters, Ben and Mariam. Mariam is nonbinary and Muslim, wearing a hijab as a show of their faith. Then there’s Nathan. Nathan has friends that he introduces Ben to, who are also POC characters. I mean, I loved that this book took place in the south and that it showed so much diversity in it. That really caught me by surprise and I loved it.
Second, despite the subject matter, it wasn’t depressing. There were sad moments, of course, but it never was too much. It felt so accurate, likely because Deaver is nonbinary as well. For me, I kept relating it back to when I was a baby transman in high school. I could relate deeply with Ben and their choice not to come out to everyone. I was deeply in the closet and never came out to my high school as a whole because I didn’t want to be bullied or put myself at risk of harm since I live in a conservative area as well.
To go with the subject matter, I loved the therapy rep! It was just amazing because it highlighted how much therapy is important. My parents and I went to therapy a few times to make sure that everything was okay when we were going through this huge transition. I know it helped my parents more than me, but if the situation had been different I know it would have helped me as well.
Third, the relationship didn’t kill me!! Romance isn’t my thing in general, but the romance in this was amazing. It was so sweet and I loved how most of it was fostering a friendship. When most YA books have tons of instalove, it was so refreshing to see a realistic relationship develop and grow. It was just great and so refreshing for me as a reader. I always have a hard time getting behind relationships in books because, most of the time, they’re not fleshed out. This was perfectly fleshed out for little ole me.
Basically, if you want a terrific debut about nonbinary and other diverse characters, I highly recommend this book. I’m definitely going to have to get it for my shelf because I’m sure I’ll want to reread it.
Have you read this? What did you think?
What contemporary YA books have you loved?