Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin | Review

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Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin | ReviewSymptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 2, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 335
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

(Last Updated On: January 17, 2022)

Let me start off this review by saying that I had never thought I’d actually like an audiobook, Yet, I saw that my library only had Symptoms of Being Human in audiobook format, so I gave it a go. Let’s just say that I’m really glad that I did!

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Symptoms of Being Human follows a character named Riley, who doesn’t identify as a boy or a girl. You see, Riley is a gender-fluid protagonist, which makes this novel so extremely unique. I’ve never read a book about gender fluidity, especially not a young adult novel. That’s why I think that this book is so important.

Riley was such an awesome character. I absolutely loved reading through Riley’s thoughts and experiencing the world. I also connected to Riley because of the blog that Riley decided to run. On it, Riley would talk about feelings and life. Those were some of my favorite parts.

Overall, I really like how Symptoms of Being Human left me thinking afterward. I know that the book is filled with characters that I will never forget. I know that I will for sure be picking up any other novels that Garvin writes in the future.

Notable quotes:

We’re all taught from a young age that there are only two choices: pink or blue, Bratz or Power Rangers, cheerleading or football. We see gender in two dimensions because that’s what society has taught us from birth. But, are you ready for a shocking revelation? SOCIETY NEEDS TO CHANGE.

I can’t blame you for trying to categorize me. It’s a human instinct. It’s why scientists are, to this day, completely flabbergasted by the duck-billed platypus: it’s furry like a mammal, but lay eggs like a bird. It defies conventional classification. I AM THE PLATYPUS.

The world isn’t binary. Everything isn’t black or white, yes or no. Sometimes it’s not a switch, it’s a dial. And it’s not even a dial you can get your hands on; it turns without your permission or approval.

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 person.

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  1. I think I remember a blogger friend posting about this book! I don't know much about it. That's so cool that the protagonist is gender-fluid – I don't think I've come across a book with such a character. This sounds like one that will leave you thinking about it for a long time. I'm glad you enjoyed the book, Krystianna!

    Happy New Year. =)

  2. I've only read one book with a gender fluid character (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin…not exactly a contemporary, haha) and I'm very curious to read more. This sounds like it hit all the right notes, and as an avid audiobook listener I'm stoked to hear that this one was well done!

  3. I'm glad you were able to really enjoy reading this one! It's important to enjoy the books you pick up. I thought this was a really thought provoking novel, raising awareness about gender fluidity and I also loved Riley. Glad you could too :c

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