Book Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Posted February 11, 2016 by love2dazzle in Reviews, Young Adult / 0 Comments

I received this book for free from Balzer & Bray, HarperCollins International, HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff GarvinSymptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Published by HarperCollins on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Adolescence, Bullying, LGBT, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Balzer & Bray, HarperCollins International, HarperTeen
Buy on Book Depository

A sharply honest and moving debut perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Ask the Passengers.Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. But Riley isn't exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in über-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley's 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. And 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.From debut author Jeff Garvin comes a powerful and uplifting portrait of a modern teen struggling with high school, relationships, and what it means to be a person.

This is more than just a book review, this is also a discussion about how a person should treat another person. The Symptoms of Being Human is an eye opener. This story is more than just about whether Riley is a boy or a girl. This story focuses more about how people should be treated and less about what your gender is or what you look like. I think Jeff Garvin brings up a great point in this book about how all people have feelings. I have been that person before wondering whether someone was a boy or a girl and I never really thought about how judge mental that is. Riley really put me in my place. Reading this book was a bit out of my comfort zone but I heard so many good things about it. I decided to give it a try to I absolutely loved it.

Riley is gender fluid which means that some days she feels like a girl and other days she feels like a boy but it is may more complicated than that. The hard thing for Riley is just that Riley never feels like an outsider in one’s own skin. (I did not realize how hard it would be to write this review without using pronouns. Kuddos to you Jeff Garvin for not using pronouns to describe Riley. This is super hard) I can’t imagine what it would feel like to not fit in my skin. I don’t envy the way Riley feels at all. Riley is a person. Riley is not a thing. The word “IT” is very offensive to Riley and Riley doesn’t want people to judge by what they think Riley is. Riley wants to be judged by personality.

Riley is now in public and thinking that this year will be better than private school, Riley finds out that those thoughts were completely wrong. The kids are just as mean if not meaner. Riley’s therapist suggested that Riley start a blog to write about feelings and anything else that Riley may want to talk about. Riley decides to start writing a blog and it ends up going viral. Then people starting reaching out to Riley through Riley’s blog. It becomes a huge thing. Lots of drama and life lessons happen from there. I would love to say more but no spoilers.

Let’s take a break from Riley for. Second and talk about Jeff Garvin. I think Garvin really wanted to teach people a lesson with this book. He wanted to point out that others have feelings and how people treat people is important. You should not only treat people how you want to be treated but you should also treat people better than how you want to be treated. The things those kids would say to Riley killed me. I wanted to put a stop to it right away and I couldn’t. Riley is always trying to figure out who Riley is. I think this is something that every person goes through. I know I have tried to figure out who I am. I may not be gender fluid but there have been issues that I have dealt with in my life that I didn’t feel like I fit in or that my skin didn’t always feel the most comfortable. I have had bullies take advantage of that.

I really like how Gavin wrote Riley’s character. Riley is trying to find Riley’s voice and the reader is able to follow Riley on that journey. It doesn’t matter who Riley is, it becomes more about who Riley is as a person rather than what the body paint looks like. It is more about what is under the hood; personality is what makes up a person. I felt for Riley so many times. No one should have to go through the things that Riley did. I wish Riley was able to open up to mom and dad. I think it would have helped Riley out. Not just that, I think Riley could have learned a lot if Riley was more open with people. I know that Riley was scared and Riley didn’t know how others would react, but Riley didn’t even get anyone a chance.

I feel like not only did Riley learn a lesson but readers will learn a lesson also. This story is more about how people should treat one another. People should be less worried about how other people look and more about themselves. There are way too many bullies in this world. I say that people should take a stand against bullying. Bullying in schools should not be tolerated. Cyber-bullying should not be allowed. People are too scared to stick up for one another. Instead of people sticking up for one another they end up joining in and helping others bully.

Garvin did a great job with this novel. I was very impressed with his writing. I am looking forward to seeing what else Garvin has for his readers. I love the life lesson in this book and I hope Garvin writes more books with such impressive life lessons. I would love to see more people take a stand against bullying and take the time to get to know people rather than tearing them down.


About love2dazzle

Ali Kiki is a reader, writer, reviewer, blogger, and photographer in Portland, OR. An avid reader since childhood, you can usually find her devouring a book or stalking the bookstagram hashtag in her lovely apartment surrounded by books. Ali has been blogging since 2006 and she created Dazzled by Books in 2012. Her most recent adventure is making bookish candles for Stub Tail Candle Co., which are sold on Etsy.

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