Acting the Part

­HarperTeen. Dec. 2022. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063157880.
Gr 8 Up–A Hollywood star fights to determine their own future in this romance centering gender identity. Frey, who everyone knows as Lily, is thrilled to provide fans with queer representation as the fierce female warrior Morgantha on the sci-fi show Galaxy Spark. But Frey feels more like themself when they escape Morgantha’s wigs and makeup by playing a male huntsman in a fantasy video game, and begins to wonder what that means about their gender identity. When the writers of Galaxy Spark use problematic tropes and stereotypes in the show’s upcoming season, Frey must decide whether to keep quiet to protect their career or to push back against the writers and the assumptions people have made about them. Ellor’s novel offers an exploration of nonbinary identity through a raw first-person narrative, capturing Frey’s fears that people will question their gender identity and realistically portraying their struggle to accept themselves as trans. A tense relationship between Frey and their perfectionist costar Greta is undermined by Frey’s lack of perspective, and while Frey eventually becomes more aware of their privilege as the white child of a Hollywood producer, readers may struggle to connect with a character who comes off as oblivious to the experiences of others.
VERDICT Despite much-needed nonbinary and asexual representation, clumsy, distracting metaphors and a predictable plot twist make this a secondary purchase.

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