Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin | SLJ Audio Review

redstarGARVIN, Jeff. Symptoms of Being Human. ­­7 CDs. 7:47 hrs. HarperAudio. Feb. 2016. $21.99. ISBN 9780062447258. digital download. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Gr 9 Up –“The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?” Keep wondering: Riley Cavanaugh isn’t answering. Riley is gender-fluid, information only Riley’s psychiatrist is privy to while Riley’s conservative congressman father and teacher mother remain clueless. Between medications and therapy, Riley is struggling to just live life. When Doctor Ann suggests Riley might choose an activity “to stop thinking about you so much,” Riley reluctantly tries blogging—as Alix. A life-or-death incident involving a desperate teen takes the blog viral, drawing both support and attacks. Among the trolls is a possible schoolmate determined to viciously expose Riley. Debut author Garvin blends snark and poignancy, anguish and hope, deception and authenticity, in a timely narrative about contemporary teen life beyond binary norms. Casting a distinctly male voice, Tom Phelan, is not an obvious choice: Riley was designated female at birth and is not taking hormones and is therefore unlikely to sound like Phelan. How differently Riley presents on the silent page vs. audibly is intriguing to ponder. VERDICT A rule-breaking, gender-illuminating, pioneering audiobook every library should acquire. [“Recommended for any library that serves a teen population”: SLJ 12/15 review of the Balzer + Bray book.]–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2016 issue.
Comments

Laura Massey

I apologize but I have to take a moment to point out that Riley's birth-assigned gender is never disclosed in this book. In fact, Jeff Garvin has mentioned in interviews that he intentionally left that information out because the whole point of the book is that Riley is gender neutral and it's no one else's business what gender they were assigned at birth. That's such an important aspect of this book so I have to point out that error in this review.

Posted : Jul 24, 2016 07:47


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