What’s it about?
When Ben comes out to their parents as non-binary they throw them out of the house in the middle of the night. Ben moves on to live with their older sister, whom they haven’t seen in almost a decade. Struggling with anxiety caused by their parents’ betrayal and trying to fit in at a new school Ben does their best to navigate the last half of senior year. Not so easy when Nathan Allan – charming, warm and funny – doesn’t give up on befriending them.
What I think about it
Wow, another hyped book that I’ve read while the hype is still hyping! 😀 At first I was unsure about reading the book because I was afraid of triggering content (you can check the trigger warnings Deaver give themselves here) but then I decided to give it a try – I could always stop when it became too much – and I’m glad I did.
I have to admit, however, that I didn’t enjoy it as much as other readers. It was a very good book, no doubt and so incredibly important! Not only for many queer kids who are still questioning their gender or sexual orientation but also adults who want to read a book about a non-binary character that was written by a non-binary author. If you want a book that takes a bad situation and shows that there is hope and that you have to keep fighting then this is the perfect book for you. Still, I disliked some parts but that’s a personal opinion that I’ll get into in a minute.
Ben is anxious to out themselves to their parents but still they think that being their kid they’d understand. Kicking Ben out of the house in the middle of the night without even their shoes on had me livid. Their sister Hannah who has had a falling out with their parents ten years ago immediately agrees to take care of Ben and lets them live with her and Thomas, her husband. Everyone is so incredibly supportive and loving towards Ben and makes an effort and it was really heart-warming to read. They could slowly, slowly try out new things, became more comfortable with Hannah and Thomas and became more open over the course of the book.
Thomas is a teacher at the local high school and pulls some strings so that Ben can change schools in the middle of the year and makes sure they get all that they need. After the clusterfuck that was their parents’ reaction Ben stays closeted at their new school out of fear for negative backlash. They try to lay low which is hard when charming Nathan does his best to befriend them. I really liked reading about Ben slowly opening up to Nathan, becoming more confident around him and how their friendship became deeper.
Quick spoiler ahead, skip paragraph!
I loved how when Ben finally came out to Nathan he wasn’t all like ‘Why didn’t you tell me? I’m your friend, you can trust me tell me anything!’ but instead apologised for unwittingly misgendering them the past half year. I think that was the most important part of the book. Think about it. Ben comes out to their parents and they reject them, causing them anxiety and depression. They certainly don’t trust anyone with their coming-out again until Nathan proves to them that they are safe with him. And Nathan doesn’t say the stupid thing but exactly the right thing, showing that there are good people out there.
Ok, here it comes, why I didn’t enjoy it as much as other readers. I didn’t like Ben all that much, both their personality and how they do stuff. Their apathy at times which I then tracked back to their depression and anxiety. And I think this hit a bit too close to home. So I guess I didn’t like it in a ‘I’m in this picture and I don’t like it’-kind of way. I got annoyed real fast when Ben just sat in their room, staring at the wall and I wanted to yell that they just do something, anything. Only later I realised that this is exactly what depression is. You don’t get to just ‘do things’. I was just the same before I started taking my meds and I think it reminded me of that time. The book is incredibly important and had I read it during my Great DepressionTM or growing up I would have adored it to bits and I hope it helps a lot of people who are questioning or anxious or trying to find the right way to come out!
It’s also so important to normalise the concept of being non-binary and these books help with that! My mind was always trying to put the non-binary characters in a gender-drawer. Male? Female? And I always had to consciously tell myself, that’s exactly the point! They’re non-binary!! Neither male nor female! I think it’s important to consciously unlearn the binary concept up to a point where the mind doesn’t immediately jump to conclusions.
The ending made me happy! A good, warm and solid ending! The book starts off on such a gloom note, Ben trying to fit in, trying to be themselves and just trying to overcome the trauma caused by their parents, all the while still hoping they might still love and see them as they really are. But it gets better with every passing page, the friendship with Nathan and their outlet in art. The ending felt like sunshine, there is no other way to describe it.
An incredibly important book by Mason Deaver, a non-binary author who gives Ben a voice, tells their story for anyone who might need to hear it. Even though it wasn’t my cup of tea for 100% I still would recommend this book to anyone! There is so much love and warmth in this book but also tragedy and trauma. I didn’t like how close it came to my own depression but still recognise how good this book was!
- Author: Mason Deaver
- Pages: 336
- Publisher: Push
- Release Date: May 14, 2019
- ISBN: 9781338306125