ARC Review: Symptoms of Being Human

12:00 AM Serena 10 Comments

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2016
Format/Source: eARC from Edelweiss. Thanks to EW and the publisher for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 5/5 stars
Part of a series? Nope!

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.

*Trigger warning and spoiler alert. Also: though Riley doesn't use pronouns in SoBH, Jeff said they/them pronouns are accurate for reviewing purposes.*

“Anyway, it's not that simple. 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.” -Symptoms of Being Human

Once and a while, I'll read a book that makes me stop and really think. It doesn't happen very often, but it happened recently. And the book that did it for me was Symptoms of Being Human.

Symptoms of Being Human follows Riley, a gender fluid teenager, who is trying to maneuver through life. I've never read a novel with a gender fluid MC before, so I jumped at the chance to read this one early because I'm all about diverse narratives. It was every bit the learning experience I hoped it would be and so much more.

Riley’s struggles as a gender fluid teen are written so vividly. They deal with the issue of keeping their identity a secret from their family and peers. They deal with anxiety and depression. They deal with bullying that is so reflective of what happens to members of the LGBTQ+ community around the world that made my heart ache. I both empathized with and loved Riley. Their strength and drive to want to help others though they had their own problems was admirable, as was their ability to get back up again after they had been wronged and violated. Riley is amazing.

Riley also had people in their life who offered support, which was so amazing to read. The support group and therapy session scenes were some of my favorites because I loved that it endorsed finding a safe space to talk about your struggles instead of internalizing them. Riley’s parents tried their best to understand and support them. And Riley’s two wonderful friends, Solo, whose obsession with Star Wars made me smile, and Bec, who genuinely cared about them. It was refreshing and wonderful.

Symptoms of Being Human, though difficult to swallow at times because of the harsh realities it portrays, is an important novel about love and life and identity that everyone should read and allow themselves to learn from. It's honest and raw and, at times, absolutely delightful. Seriously, go pick this up.


  1. I'm so glad you liked this one! I can't wait for it to be released!! :D
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

    1. I can't wait for it to be released either! I really think people need to read it. Thanks for stopping by! xo

  2. Savings in Seconds sent me!

  3. Hi! Savings in Seconds sent me from the Share The Love hop!

  4. Just found your blog and love it. Saving in Seconds sent me.

  5. Savings in Seconds sent me to say hi! :)

  6. So glad you enjoyed this read! Really want to pick that book up soon! Great review btw, :D

    1. Thanks for saying so and for stopping by, Drew! And YES, definitely pick it up! You'll feel so many feels. Let me know if you do!