Contemporary Realistic Fiction · Review · Young Adult

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff GarvinPublisher: Balzer + Bray

Pub. Date: 2016

Genre: Contemporary YA

Pages: 330

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Riley Cavanaugh, the child of a conservative congressman, is gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and some days as a girl. Now Riley is starting over at a public school and dealing with the congressman’s campaign. A therapist recommends Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent, and Riley creates one under the name Alix. The blog goes viral. Alix/Riley will have to make a decision: abandon the blog or come out and risk everything. Symptoms of Being Human, by Jeff Garvin, describes one experience of being gender fluid and shows.

I was intrigued by this book for having a gender fluid character. The book is good, but it is not great. It is information-heavy, which I would expect in blogging but not all at once in a story.

Only two of the characters change throughout the story. Riley works on accepting their gender identity and learns other peoples’ motivations for their actions. Solo realizes that some people are just jerks. The third character, Bec, is well-developed, but she does not change. For so much conflict to come from Riley’s parents, neither parent changes. Some of the parents’ actions and behaviors were unbelievable to me, even when I consider the element of one character being a congressman.

The story is pretty plot-driven, despite the author’s attempts to make it character-driven. The political/social events Riley has to attend and the constant threats and bullying all drove the story. Characters, of course, make the threats and bully, but they were not driving the story.

Symptoms of Being Human is an interesting read if you are looking for something about gender identity.

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