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Symptoms of Being Human Hardcover – February 2, 2016
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—After a more than unpleasant experience at a Catholic high school, Riley Cavanaugh, whose father is a conservative congressman, is looking for a fresh start at Park Hills High. However, when a new classmate spots Riley and asks, "Is that a girl, or a guy?" Riley quickly gets pegged as an "it." Though the protagonist wakes up some mornings feeling more like a girl and other mornings feeling more like a boy and would prefer to dress in a manner that reflects this, Riley must present as androgynously as possible in order to avoid negative attention. Riley is genderfluid but must keep it a secret in order to keep up appearances for their father's political campaign. Taking the suggestion of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog about what it's like to be genderfluid. The blog quickly accumulates followers. But when a reader discovers Riley's identity and starts to make threats, Riley must decide if they are ready to come out as the blog's author. Garvin is skilled at truly encapsulating the feeling of being completely without allies in high school. The isolation is palpable in every scene. Garvin's strengths also lie in his ability not to reveal the assigned gender of Riley without turning it into some sort of trick or novelty. Riley is not just genderfluid: Riley is witty, has a charming sense of humor, is a skilled writer, and is totally capable of getting the girl. Very few YA titles have featured protagonists like Riley, who don't fit into the black and white of the gender binary. VERDICT Recommended for any library that serves a teen population.—Ingrid Abrams, Town School Library, NY
“Riley is a smart, funny, sharp-eyed force” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“One of the first YA books to deal with the complex issue of gender fluidity…Riley’s emotional life and personal growth shed welcome light on a hitherto obscure subject.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Vibrantly imagined…a welcome mirror for gender-fluid teens.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“With a main character who truly deserves to be called unique, combined with heartbreak and triumphs that are universal, this unforgettable book made me laugh, and also cry: Garvin’s powerful new voice rocks!” (Lissa Price, international bestselling author of Starters)
“Riley Cavanaugh is a sharp, funny, powerful voice for those who haven’t quite found theirs yet. Both highly entertaining and highly necessary, Symptoms is the kind of book that makes you a better human for having read it. I loved it.” (Dahlia Adler, author of Under the Lights and Just Visiting)
“A moving portrayal of what it means to be different, yet the same, all at once. Jeff Garvin has written a beautifully thoughtful book.” (Renee Ahdieh, author of The Wrath and the Dawn)
“An important introduction for readers who know little about gender fluidity and a welcome nod to those who may be experiencing similar feelings.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)
Top customer reviews
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This is a diverse novel, with the main character identifying as gender fluid. The story really sucks you in. A few things throughout the book were kind of predictable, at least to me, but I think I’m a pretty good guesser at what’s going to happen in a book. I loved seeing the world through Riley’s eyes, learning more about what being gender fluid really means. The writing was unique and absolutely beautiful. My stomach was full of butterflies, and a smile overtook my face often while reading. I even cried some.
Besides my enormous love for Riley, I really liked Bec as well. Solo was okay at parts, especially towards the last half of the book. Riley’s parents annoyed me here and there throughout the book. They were too demanding; helicopter parents always hovering and bugging Riley. I thought the blog posts were really interesting and informative. The romance wasn’t very prominent in the book, but I loved it nevertheless. The pairing was absolutely adorable.
I didn’t find any book boyfriends in this book, but it was definitely still worth the read. The parts where I cried, my heart felt like it was breaking. I don’t want to say what happened, because it would spoil the book, but wow, just wow.
Some of my favorite lines: “‘Why does that make you think I’m from the Midwest?’ Solo shrugs. ‘Where else could you develop such contempt for traditional American values?'” and “Ten minutes later we’re speeding down the freeway, Solo’s hatchback shuddering like a porta-potty in a 5.0 magnitude earthquake.” and “‘As for wondering if it’s okay to be who you are–that’s not a symptom of mental illness. That’s a symptom of being a person.'”
Final note: Jeff did an amazing job with his debut book, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who loves diverse books. I loved it so much that I had to buy a hardcover copy for my personal library! Check it out!
The novel's unique, fascinating protagonist is the voice of this coming-of-age story that gets its powerful message across in a balanced and non-preachy way. What started for me as a fun, easy read pleasantly surprised me by how much it pulled me into its characters' experiences, impacting me emotionally in ways I haven't experienced with other Young Adult novels.
Please read this book!
Genderqueer=/=someone who can pass for male or female.
It also irked me that the author wasn't genderqueer, but I suppose that's just a personal issue.
I am a teacher, and had a student come out to me as gender fluid last year. This story could basically have been hers/his - strict uniform school, other students making constant comments. While I did my best to be a safe listener and give that student the acceptance I was genuinely feeling, I didn't have the vocabulary I maybe needed to say what I needed to say. It came across anyhow. We have a wonderful relationship. We've both moved to different schools but I wish we could read it together. This book would have helped us talk about so much more, and give that student a chance to say, "Yes, this is what I am feeling" or "No, it's different for me because....." It would have helped me then, and it has better prepared me for the next student who is brave/desperate enough to say something.
I think this book is important. Thank you, Jeff Garvin, for writing it.
We get to see the Riley go through Hell several times and in several ways and emerge from the other side. The characters ... the details ... the overall story - well written and well told. In the process we learn by observation that gender is so much more complex than we thought.