April 12, 2016

Thursday, October 29, 2015


One of the best parts about being a debut novelist has been connecting with other children's authors in the class of 2016.

SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN by Jeff Garvin was a book that I immediately passed to my teen. It's a must-read contemporary YA with a heart-breakingly real protagonist.

Pre-order from Indiebound
This contemporary YA launches on February 2. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

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 in uber-conservative Orange County, 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. 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.

This chart is oversimplified, but it's a start!
I ached for Riley, who must wake up every morning and discover who they are and how they are going to navigate the world. (Yes, the pronoun is intentional. I'm learning from my teen that pronouns are a big issue for people in the LGBT+ community and their allies. Read more about that at the U. Milwaukee LGBT Resource Center page.) The friends Riley makes at their new high school are also well-drawn, appealing characters who accept Riley for who they are, inside and out, and offer support when Riley is struggling with a threatening stalker.

SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN is appropriate for mature middle schoolers and up.

Who will like it?
  • Teens who want to know more about the gender spectrum.
  • Anyone who has felt out of place at school (who hasn't?).
  • Readers who love first person narrators.

What will readers learn about?
  • Even people who are "different" aren't alone. Opening up to others is a way to find friends and support.
  • The power of speaking up and speaking out.
  • The importance of being true to yourself.

The poem I'm pairing with SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN was first posted as part of the "Humans of New York" series of photographs and interviews. The author is a teen named Puck.

The NY skyline swirls around me,
Cars and brick and tree trunks
mashing together,
glass windows gnash jagged teeth
The body of a dead girl was
found earlier today,
bleeding out on the sidewalk.
Rising from her body came
an awkward boy,
stammering and confused
and full of wonder
and terror all at once
The boy’s grandparents keep
a photo of the boy in a
dark chestnut wig,
all made up and dressed to the 9’s
(They believe her to still be alive)...

Read the rest of the poem at the Humans of New York Facebook page.

And you can read more about Puck at GLAAD.

SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN is available for pre-order at Amazon. Thank you to Jeff Garvin for making the ARC available.


Linda B said...

Books/Stories like this are wonderfully appearing, & I'm now passing them on to colleagues at my school so they can pass them on, too. In the past year I've had two former students come out as "aromantic asexual" & they have been supported by families and friends. At school, there are students we know need support, but it is tough until they reach out. There is an organization that offers a safe place for all kinds of teens to hang out here in Denver called Rainbow Alley (among others) & they came to share with small groups last year to our middle school (6, 7, 8) students. It was a wonderful chance to open conversations. Thanks for sharing this new book coming, Laura.

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Linda. It's a great book. I'm so glad that you'll be able to share it with your colleagues. I'm also learning a lot about the gender spectrum and what it means to be aromantic and asexual from the young people I've met in the poetry world and beyond.

Thanks also for the info about Denver's Rainbow Alley.