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Publisher's Summary

Starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist

YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers

ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults List

2017 Rainbow

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 re-election 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. 

©2016 Jeff Garvin (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers

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What listeners say about Symptoms of Being Human

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Read this, right now!!

While I was growing up—at least where I was growing up—there weren’t any discussions about gender. The whole notion of anything besides the binary—in fact, any discussion about the term binary itself—was simply nonexistent. So I grew up with that vague notion that something was amiss for me; that I was different, too different to put into words.

I knew that I never wanted to be defined as a woman. That the idea of having that label was annoying, to say the least. I didn’t want to be identified as a man, either; I simply didn’t want to be identified, period. I wanted to be human, nothing else. To be judged solely for my character and actions, not by gender. Being a feminist and, therefore, pro equality, helped with some understanding but it still didn’t feel enough.

Then, recently, I read about nonbinary and genderfluid people and a new world opened to me. I finally found the definition I’d always tried to express; why having to check the F or M in any form made me cringe so much. Why having to go to events about Women’s day at work made me want to scream. I am nonbinary. I despise gender roles, I hate being dismissed by what may be between my legs. I don’t care about the gender binary and I dream of a world where any person will have the freedom to define themselves as female or male as they wish or not to define themselves at all if they prefer. Where there won’t be any boxes to check or, at least, an N/A option.

And then a friend read Symptoms of Being Human and raved about it on Facebook. I was immediately interested, craving the chance to have representation—done right—in a novel. And oh, how wonderful the experience was!

This is a magnificent book. It is important, it is well written, it is such a powerful testimony it seems like nonfiction. And yet the writing is so lyrical, so poetic, I couldn’t stop noting quotes. Sharing quotes. Thinking about quotes.

Riley’s story is a simple one, one that is happening right now to so many people out there. And that’s the brilliancy of it; it speaks to hundreds of thousands of people who so far may be hiding, may be lost, may not even have figured out what is going on with them. Not just young people either…remember what I said at the beginning, and I’m almost 40 years old. It’s never too late to understand and to be understood.

I know we are evolving fast. Society is at least learning that it can’t just dismiss and pretend what’s not the norm doesn’t exist anymore. But there’s still so much to do, so much to learn, so much to free. Symptoms of Being Human is a huge help in that. May this book become such a tremendous bestseller that no one will be able to say they never heard about genderfluid or nonbinary anymore. Let’s spread the word about this novel and make the world a safer place to all of us!

Thank you so much, Jeff Garvin, for writing what is, no doubt, one of the best books I’ve ever have the honor of reading. And also kudos to Tom Phelan for a tremendous narration.

10 people found this helpful

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Interesting and thought provoking

This audio was well read and well written. I appreciated being exposed to something I knew nothing about. I also enjoyed that all of the answers were not apparent. A good listen for anyone who is interested in how different ALL of us are.

4 people found this helpful

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Beautiful and Moving - a Must Read!

Any additional comments?

This book is gorgeous. It gives a very personal inside look into gender fluidity and the challenges it imposes on teenagers who are already just trying to find their identity in a sea of hormones and high school struggles. Riley is a character you can't help but love and cheer for every step of the way, their relationships are confused and full of depth, and the reader can't help but better understand different ways of looking at gender upon reading this book. It's both a beautiful work of fiction and a moving piece of social activism. I cannot recommend it enough!

1 person found this helpful

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Made me want to stand up and fight

A gut wrenching, relatable portrayal of a gender fluid teens fight for survival. I have a gender fluid family member and this book brought me to tears and close to sobbing multiple times. it also reminded me of the life saving power of having at least one person who has your back. Riley's story made me determined to speak up loudly for the protection and safety of all those that do not fit neatly into the mythical gender binary.

1 person found this helpful

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Very informative re: gender fluid

Love the main characters in this story and learned about gender fluid. It is critical this day and age to be knowledgeable about sense of gender versus sexual preference. Well written, well narrated and thoroughly enjoyable!

2 people found this helpful

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I am so happy with this book

this was a very good book and I felt like I WAS the main character. my favorite character was solo, also. I could relate to the main character a lot. so, overall very good book.

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This book is absolute garbage

This was a ridiculously poorly written book. Everything from depicting the world to character description is on par with middle school writing. The narrator could not be a more stereotypical representation of gay men, and should probably apply for work at a grocery store or something, narration is not his strong suit. You could write a book about hw bad this book is, and anyone who actually sees this as good writing is either blindly supportive of the theme or too dense to breathe without being reminded.

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Non-binary reader

Symptoms of Being Human is about a young teenager named Riley Cavanaugh. Riley not only deals with the normal issues of being a teenager (high school and bullies), Riley has to deal with their dad being a Congressman for Southern California and anxiety attacks.
Now, I know you noticed I said “their'' when referring to Riley. This is because Riley (on top of everything else), is Gender Fluid. In simple terms, being Gender Fluid means sometimes Riley sometimes feels like a girl, and sometimes they feel like a boy. As they refer to it in their own words, their gender is like a dial. The needle sometimes points closer to “girl” and sometimes points closer to “boy”. I'll be posting a more in-depth blog post about non-binary genders on Friday.
Riley, from the advice of their counselor, starts an anonymous blog under the username “Alix”. This blog unexpectedly explodes in popularity after Riley gives a suicidal trans girl advice that saves her life, but sends her back home where she's almost beaten to death by her father.
Riley now not only has to deal with the issues mentioned earlier but now they have to deal with the guilt of their blog causing that girl harm. Its mentioned in the story that the girl is not only alive, but she also thanked Riley for the advice. Even though the girl is ok with everything and even encourages other trans people to come out, Riley still feels guilty.
This would all be overwhelming if it weren't for Riley's two new friends, Solo and Bec.
Riley tries to stay anonymous and in the closet as long as they can but can Riley manage to stay that way?
Symptoms of Being Human is the first book I've ever read with a non-binary main character. As a non-binary writer/person, this was refreshing. The only problem I had with this book is the lack of “they/them” pronouns. Using “they” are a pronoun is extremely common for non-binary people (this isn't the ONLY pronouns used, but the most common).
This book was written by a cis male (which is another problem I had, but he at least did a decent job representing the community). The other issue I saw was the main character reinforces the stereotype that non-binary people are teenagers who run a blog (all too familiar to the stereotype of non-binary people being SJW Tumblr users). I'm 28 years old, married with a child, and proudly non-binary.
If you're non-binary or want to change up your usual cis, white male reading list, give Symptoms of Being Human a try.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

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I loved it

it was so relatable to me and ig actually hit me in the feelings. I recomended it to my friend and he loved it.

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YESSS

The narration is amazing and the story is phenomenal, I was so into it I was screaming out loud