Monday, January 11, 2016

Mini Reviews: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin and Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

From Goodreads: 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.

My Rating: Somewhere between 3 and 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Jeff Garvin’s Symptoms of Being Human hooked me right away with its beginning line of “The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?”. It’s a question I’ve never really given much thought to, but it’s an important issue for trans and genderqueer teens. That’s why, even though I wasn’t blown away by the story, I liked Symptoms of Being Human. It shows the challenges of coming out, but also addresses the importance of speaking up – and does so with a narrator whose biological sex we never find out, which I thought was pretty cool. 

Symptoms of Being Human will be released on February 2, 2016 by Balzer + Bray. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Harpercollins) via Edelweiss.

From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself. Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy - so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed. When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process.

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn isn’t a book I’d normally read because I tend to avoid books where there’s cheating. However, I decided to give it a try for two reasons: 1) Flynn is a Canadian and 2) there aren’t too many YA books that deal directly with sex. Unfortunately, while there are some good quotes in Firsts about sex, I just couldn’t connect with its main character, who’s basically a spoiled girl that tries to justify the fact that she has sex with guys in committed relationships to cover up her own issues.

Firsts was released by St. Martin’s Griffin on January 5, 2016. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Macmillan) via NetGalley.


  1. I definitely couldn't handle all the cheating in First either Z. It's a deal breaker for me in any book, so this is clearly not the right book for me. I'm glad it has a sex-positive approach though, even if I can't fully relate to Merecedes' "open door" bedroom policy.

  2. Oh man, I can't deal with that amount of cheating either. Kudos to you for giving it a go at least. I could see myself giving the first one a go from the library or something though - I know I have for sure never read anything like that.

  3. I'm really excited about the first book. I'm so glad that there are more books that are dealing with gender labeling and issues. I'm going to take a pass on Firsts. Cheating is a red hot button for me and something that I just can't tolerate.

  4. Like you, I generally steer clear of books with cheating involved. I'm uncomfortable with the idea. Firsts doesn't sound like a book I would pick up. On the other hand, Symptoms sounds intriguing. I might just give it a try.

    Precious @ Fragments of Life

  5. I haven't heard many good things about Firsts, and since it isn't a genre/theme I'd normally read I think I'll stay away.

    Symptoms of Being Human on the other hand sounds really interesting. I've never read a book like that before.

  6. I took a peek at the first page of Symptoms of Being A Human and I agree that it is interesting. I may have to pass on Firsts though. It doesn't sound like something I'd like.

  7. Firsts sounds like the most ridiculous novel ever! I don't think I fully realized what it was about until just now. It really doesn't surprise me that you didn't like it. Symptoms of Being Human intrigues me. I am glad books like that exists are are discussing important issues.

  8. Too bad you didn't like Firsts. I haven't read it, but I do think it is ambitious to try to discuss teenage sexuality honestly.


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