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Book Review: Symptoms of Being Human

Title: Symptoms of Being Human
Author: Jeff Garvin
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reviewer: Julia

Why is Symptoms of Being Human such a great book? I am not sure if I have enough space in this post to tell you all of the reasons why I love it. In general, this book by Jeff Garvin is so wonderful because of the "different-ness" of the book. Not every teen book you come across will address anxiety, depression, the LBGT+ community, friendships, bullying, and more in only 330 pages. Yet somehow, Garvin accomplishes this and so much more.

Let's start with the main character of the novel: Riley. They truly are amazing, and I have to agree with Robin Talley, author of What We Left Behind, when they said that Riley is a "real lead who I know will stay with me for a long time." With a witty and strong voice, Riley Cavanaugh is a wonderful (here comes the LBGT+ part) genderfluid teen who is just trying to get through life. (For those of you who are not aware of what it means to be genderfluid, allow me to inform you. To be genderfluid is to not fit in the gender binary, meaning that a genderfluid individual is neither "boy" or "girl". Their gender changes, and can fall anywhere upon the gender spectrum, from feeling like a girl, a boy, a mix, or neither.) Riley has issues just like every one of us, and, unlike most teen novels, romance is not an issue for them. (Although, if you really must know, some romance is included.)

This is the cover of my copy without the jacket. It just has a
purple streak of lightning. Isn't it beautiful?
Riley struggles with ongoing anxiety and depression, and this can be hard for them while they also deal with their other problems. This includes the pressure that comes with being a congressman's child, keeping their gender identity a secret, merciless bullies, and trying to make friends in a new school where they might be teased for their gender identity.

When Riley makes an anonymous blog on the suggestion from his therapist, they never expected the amount of publicity it got. Everyone was seeing it...including a collection of rude kids from their school. Suddenly, all of Riley's problems become noticeably larger, and keeping secrets become more and more difficult...

Overall, this novel is relatable and inspiring, and definitely a book you should read. You might cry. You might laugh. But in the end, you'll certainly feel more confident of yourself and sure of what it really means to be human. 

Check out Julia's review on another meaningful book, The Light Between Oceans.
"Okay, I'm not sure if I'm allowed to give a book infinity out of 5, but I'm going to do it because this book was that good. I have never cried so much or intensely over a single book. (I cried throughout the book and in one consistent stream for the last 50 pages.) I am so in love with it that I have made a shrine of sorts (still looking for a better term for it) on top of my dresser dedicated to it. (Em even contributed to this shrine by making me a lovely drawing of the cover of the book!)

The Light Between Oceans is a wonderful story. Using third person point of view, author M. L. Stedman weaves together marvelous characters and beautiful descriptions to create..." Read more


  1. Wow! This is a very interesting topic. I'm glad that some teens today are willing to read and talk about it.

    1. Yes, I am too! I believe that more teens should read it. (Hence the review.) I hope that you will read and enjoy it too!

  2. This sounds like a very complex book! Glad you enjoyed it.


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