Being Human Sucks: 'Symptoms of Being Human'

Friday, March 11, 2016


Symptoms of Being Human

Author: Jeff Garvin

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.

My emotions when I saw this book were as follows:
Shock, disbelief
Though not in that order. People were hesitant with this book since the last genderqueer book didn't accomplish a lot.


  • This book had real emotions and realistic portrayal. The story of Riley and Riley's troubles could be somebody else's. People get bullied over this. It's somebody's reality. I'm happy that the author wrote about this. He didn't hold back. He didn't hide the truth. He wrote about the bullying. And he went one step farther by showing the cyber bullying. In this day and age, people use social media to lash out at others. Cyber bullying is, sadly, something that happens. We can't prevent it really, unless you never use the Internet ever again. But then you'd be faced with real life bullying. And I'm not sure which is worse.
  • The blogging aspect was amazing. A lot of people turn to social media to vent and figure things out. I mean, I do. Even now. Blogs are great outlets, for the writer and reader. I remember that Instagram let me vent and helped me figure out a lot of things. In middle school, I learned more about the world via Instagram. Social media can teach you, but it can also be destructive. I'm happy that this book also had the social media focus. Social media is amazing but also a little detrimental. Also, bloglr just makes me laugh. Bloglr? Haha. Perfect.
  • The LGBT community was strong in this story. There was the Q. And the people who read Riley's blog. The sense of family was strong. I wanted more of that. It was intriguing to read. People who are outcasts band together. Even if they have nothing else in common. We're all different. But the same in a way. And we come together to form a community.

  • The lack of plot really annoyed me. It seemed to just go with the flow. There wasn't an overarching story. To put things bluntly, Riley moved to a new school, Riley met new people, Riley was bullied, Riley came out, and Riley dealt with the aftermath. That is putting things in the most simplistic manner, but the story didn't continue past that. I wanted more of Trans Health Con and the coming out, but the story was too focused on the beginning (with the blog and the bullying.) The thing is Riley didn't do much in the beginning. It was a lot about the dysphoria. And not much else. I wanted more of the story. More of the after-coming-out.
  • Bec was just tiresome. Her mood swings and her appearances and disappearances were annoying me. I was sick of her. She was so rude to Riley, and she didn't deserve Riley. I just wanted to shake some sense into her. If I was given more about her life, I'd probably be more sympathetic. But this isn't Bec's story. It's Riley's.

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