Book Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

symptoms of being human

Symptoms of Being Human

4.5 stars

Riley Cavanaugh is gender fluid. There are days Riley identifies as a boy, some days as a girl. About to start a new school, and having a congressman for a father who’s running for reelection in an extremely conservative district, Riley feels a lot of pressure to fit in. Riley’s not out yet and to help with all the anxiety, a therapist suggests starting a blog where Riley can vent anonymously about life and what it’s like to be a gender fluid teenager. Just as Riley’s starting to feel calm and settled at the new school, the blog goes viral and there’s one commenter claiming to know Riley’s identity. Riley has a choice to make: walk away from the blog that has become very important or stand up to the bully and come out.

This book completely sucked me in. I was captivated by Riley’s story and struggles. It was clear that a lot of research went into this book and I really appreciated Riley’s way of explaining things. The blog entries and comments were woven into the story in ways that made sense and didn’t distract from Riley’s story, instead it added to it.

Riley was a great character that was easy to empathize with. Every day was a struggle because there was no telling which gender would be more prominent so Riley tended to dress and act in a way that was neutral. The blog gave Riley an outlet to vent but also to connect with people who were also struggling with sexuality or gender identity. Riley had a smart, snarky voice that was likeable and easy to read. I also appreciated that Riley wasn’t written in a way that made gender identity the main thing about the character. Riley had flaws and made mistakes and was a well-rounded character who showed growth throughout the book.

I absolutely loved the friendships that formed in this book. Riley bonded both with a girl who seemed happy to be an outcast and a football player who used to be an outcast. The friendships were very different from each other but still fit well when the three were together. It was interesting to see the ways Riley would interact and react depending on if it was Bec around or Solo around.

The plot focused a lot of Riley’s daily struggles as a gender fluid teen and I liked the repetitiveness of it since these were not struggles that would magically go away after one good day or one person’s acceptance. I thought Jeff Garvin did a great job of adding tension with the anonymous commenter’s threats of exposure and Riley’s parents expectations without making it seem like it was happening just to pile more struggles on Riley. It all had a purpose. He also did a great job in giving information about gender fluid struggles within the story without it feeling dry. It ended up being a very quick read but really, mostly because I couldn’t put it down and I didn’t want to.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



Filed under book-related, books, favorite book, must read, reviews, talking books, ya books

4 responses to “Book Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

  1. This one sounds so good! I’m glad to see you like it.
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

  2. Pingback: Weekly Reading Recap | Overflowing Bookshelves

  3. Such a lovely review! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this one!

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