Symptoms of Being Human
by Garvin, Jeff

Struggling with identity, Riley, a gender-fluid teenager, starts an anonymous blog after a therapist encourages it, but when the blog goes viral Riley must make a choice-to walk away or to risk everything and come out.

*Starred Review* Riley has a secret. The androgynous 16-year-old is gender fluid. Some days the teen wakes up feeling like a boy, others like a girl. Riley dresses gender neutral, though that isn't enough to forestall belief at school that Riley is either homosexual or transgender. Not surprisingly, bullying results, most of it sparked by a football player and his toadies. At the suggestion of Riley's therapist, the teen begins writing as "Alix" in a pseudonymous blog that provides a place for candid commentary on life as gender fluid. Surprisingly, the blog goes viral and Riley's true identity is discovered by an enemy who may out Riley. This could have a disastrous impact on Riley's emotional life as well as the teen's father's campaign for reelection to Congress. Garvin's novel is one of the first YA books to deal with the complex issue of gender fluidity. To emphasize the dynamic nature of this situation, the author avoids references to Riley's birth-assigned gender. This means eschewing personal pronouns, a device some readers will find frustrating but nevertheless underscores readers' instincts to put individuals into a box. The novel has its share of histrionics-Riley's typical reaction to situations is to have a panic attack, a device that gets old-but for the most part, Riley's emotional life and personal growth shed welcome light on a hitherto obscure subject. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Riley Cavanaugh, whose father is a prominent politician in a conservative Southern California county, navigates being gender fluid and experiencing panic attacks. For Riley, being gender fluid means that "some days I wake up feeling more 'boy' and some days I wake up feeling more 'girl.' And some days, I wake up feeling somewhere in between." When Riley starts attending public school, in part to escape bullying and in part to boost Sen. Cavanaugh's education-reformer image, Riley's plan is to dress androgynously and try to blend in. But Riley's arrival attracts attention both negative—a popular girl calls Riley "it"—and positive—two misfit students offer friendship and maybe more. On the advice of Dr. Ann, the therapist Riley started seeing after a suicide attempt, Riley starts a personal blog. After just a couple of posts, Riley gains a massive following, and Andie Gingham, a trans girl in crisis, reaches out to Riley for advice. Both the blog's instant pop ularity and the media emphasis on Riley's role in Andie's story ring false, and the book's insistence that transgender and gender-fluid teens should all come out seems less than carefully reasoned. Riley's family relationships and growing friendships, however, are vibrantly imagined, and the panic attacks are well-illustrated. Overall, a welcome mirror for gender-fluid teens and a helpful introduction for others. (Fiction. 12-18) Copyright Kirkus 2015 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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