Reviews tagging Child death

The Passing Playbook, by Isaac Fitzsimons

9 reviews

criticalgayze's review

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emotional hopeful inspiring medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.75

I read this in preparation for a discussion on the 2022 Lambda award nominees, and I came away really enjoying my reading experience. This one really highlights the importance for marginalized people to be on the forefront of telling their stories because there's an intense specificity in the detail of Spencer's interior monologue about homosexuality and self and external transgender body politicking.

This does suffer from some of the "stereotypical" attacks lobbed at "Young Adult" literature, which I believe are just the key faults of any poorly edited book. First, it has a big problem with being overstuffed on points. First, I think focusing on both transgender athleticism and homosexual dating as a transgender person is a lot in one book. This likely should have been developed as a series, akin to the Darius books by Adib Khorram, where each issue could be tackled in its own text.
SpoilerFurther, I think that including a closeted dating relationship that includes intense religious bigotry being faced by the love interest was too much for a book that was really a single-perspective story. Fitzsimmons does not give the time here to truly flesh that out, and it ends up with this weirdly rushed, "But it's all mostly alright!" ending.
For me personally, there are also some issues with hokey canned "I realize I was being small minded" one-liners, and, given the sociopolitical aspects of the story, Justice's acceptance of Spencer's gender identity seemed maybe a touch beyond logic.

But this is all me with my critical English teacher/scholar brain. This one is very cute, and I think could be really helpful and necessary for Queer (particularly trans) youth, especially in our current moment. Put it in your classroom library!

Quotes:
As if Spencer’s thoughts were sending out a homing beacon, Justice looked over in his direction, making eye contact, and Spencer understood what Gimli saw when he gazed upon Galadriel. (30)
Just because the onus always fell on trans and queer people, didn’t mean it should. (262)
Spencer didn’t want to be tolerated. You tolerated a bad smell. You tolerated a leaky faucet until it got fixed. (278)

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bimeariver's review

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emotional hopeful reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes

4.0


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georgie_drake's review against another edition

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funny hopeful informative inspiring fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0


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mme_carton's review against another edition

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emotional funny hopeful lighthearted relaxing fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

2.0


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bookcrushin's review

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adventurous emotional hopeful inspiring fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

Gosh I loved this book. Finished in one day and I haven’t done that in a long time. So important especially with all the anti-trans bills in schools and sports. Just let people play sports!! 

I also loved that we had supportive parents and even though that can also be a detrimental to teens at times too. Super important narrative and I will hold this book in my heart for sure. 

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lauren07's review against another edition

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emotional hopeful lighthearted reflective fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75


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moonyreadsbystarlight's review

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inspiring lighthearted
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

4.0

As I am writing this review, it is 4:30 AM because I couldn't bring myself to put this book down. This was a joy to read in so many ways. There was an adorable romance, a great best friend, and family that played an active role throughout the story. Seeing trans representation like this is almost surreal -- seeing someone transition at such a young age and receive the level of support that Spencer does. While he does encounter a lot of issues, there are also many things that don't end up being issues which is incredibly important and wonderful to see. There was a lot of complexity thematically regarding experiences of queer people in affirming vs non-affirming environments, including roles that religion can play. As someone in a state in the "Bible belt" that is one of the leading states in anti-trans legislation this year, both the aforementioned joy and themes really hit home.  

I do think that the ending was a bit rushed. There were some great scenes that I think could have been made even more effective if the last quarter of the book had been longer. And there are a few characters that I loved, but would have liked to see explored more. Over all, this was a great read that tackles some very important issues and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Thank you to Penguin for sending me this ARC to read and review!

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perpetualpages's review

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challenging emotional hopeful inspiring lighthearted reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

CWs: Allusions to past bullying, death threats, and school lockdown; religious fanatacism and homophobia in the guise of religious rhetoric; misgendering; transphobia and outdated transphobic terminology (from side characters); and some brief (non-graphic) references to overdose and child death

 I love trans lit so much, and this book serves as perfect reminder as to why that it is.

The Passing Playbook is a much needed story, not simply because of the time we find ourselves in with anti-trans legislation at an all-time high, but because it explores transness in ways that we rarely get to see, even with the growing influx of queer books being published every year. Stories like this remind me of why we need trans fiction, and how much more about the quote-unquote "trans experience" there still is to explore.

Rarely do we get to see younger trans protagonists, and especially those who are medically transitioning with the full support of their parents. I have never read a story with main character who's on hormone blockers, who uses testosterone gel, who is actively trying to be stealth at school and pass for his own safety. And what I love most is that the story doesn't linger on those aspects of transitioning or passing, but gives the reader enough information to know why these things are at the forefront of Spencer's mind while also giving just enough detail to allow readers to do their own research if they're curious to know more. It's a story that doesn't subject its hero to being under a microscope for the sake of cis readers, but that also acknowledges the very real obstacles that trans people face, especially in academic settings.

I also loved the relationship between Spencer and Justice. There were some interesting parallels between them with how Spencer is "passing" as a cis guy while Justice is "passing" as both straight and as a non-religious person most of the time, so to speak, before Spencer learns more about him and his family. They both have this tumultuous past that's difficult to understand without the lived experience, and they're both trying to hide it so that they can walk through the world without having to constantly explain these potentially fraught experiences. While those experiences are definitely not one and the same, they're both coming from that place of wanting to protect themselves and wanting to be seen as more than just their labels, which connects them on a deeper level.

More importantly, the story reconciles Spencer and Justice being in two different places in terms of their identities in such a nuanced way. Spencer is out as trans to his close friends and family, and he has the support of his family, while Justice is completely closeted. While this presents a challenge for their relationship as it develops, the story never once villainizes being closeted. I think that's a trap a lot of queer stories unknowingly fall into, where the narrative seems to (unintentionally) imply that not coming out means you're not proud of yourself, you're not being true to yourself, or you're not being "authentic"—when that's not true at all. This story understands that not everyone is at the same point in their journey, and that there is no shame in keeping yourself safe and prioritizing your own protection and readiness, especially in a world that doesn't universally accept or protect queer people.

Related to that, there's a really great conversation about the connection between privilege and visibility. Passing is a privilege. Being visible and feeling confident in that visibility is a privilege. Being incorrectly assumed as cis or straight doesn't make you any less queer, and doesn't make you any less a part of the community. How then do we balance being visible and providing hope to those who might need it with also keeping ourselves safe? If we have passing privilege, how do we then use that privilege to continue uplifting our community, especially in public spaces and forums where others might be overlooked or silenced? How can we protect and support people who can't be out or who don't want to be out without demanding their visibility or performance as a prerequisite for community or respect?

Those are ultimately the questions Spencer is facing in this book. Should he come out as trans so that he and his family can publicly challenge the anti-trans law that prohibits him from playing on the boys' soccer team or should he keep his head down and protect himself in a world that has already proved itself to be unsafe for him? How does he weigh his own readiness and safety with making a stand against something that profoundly impacts his community? There is no right or wrong answer, no clear-cut solution that doesn't constitute some kind of sacrifice on our part, and sometimes that's the line we have to walk. Again, the story never villainizes or glorifies either choice, but understands on a profound level the validity and reality of both.

While I can't comment on the Autistim representation we get with Spencer's brother, my one minor note is that there were a few times where it got close to feeling like Theo's Autism was "just another thing that complicates Spencer's life." While Theo is never once positioned as a burden, nor made to perform Autism in a way that neurotypical audiences have come to expect, it did occasionally seem like he was brought into the story especially when there needed to be some additional tension. Again, I can't speak to the representation itself, and while overall I really enjoyed the loving relationship dynamic between Spencer and Theo, I did want to share that one note. I don't think the story ever quite crosses that line, but it does get close a few times.

All in all, this in an incredible and much-needed story that brilliantly balances hardship with hope. It's a book that complicates and adds to the conversations about transness that still need to happen, both within the queer community and outside of it. You should read it as an antithesis to the recent anti-trans sports laws, yes, but even MORE than that you should read it because it celebrates a trans hero navigating how to advocate for his community and himself. It's a story about soccer, friendship, first love, and learning how to be yourself, which is exactly the kind of story we need. 

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pucksandpaperbacks's review

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5.0

I was sent an ARC in exchange for an honest review through Net Galley courtesy of the publisher.

Content Warnings: Misgendering, transphobia, homophobia, religious fanaticism in the form of religious rhetoric, and mention of death by overdose and child death (not graphic) 

The Passing Playbook shows why stories about trans kids playing sports is such an important topic. Spencer, a 14-year-old trans boy goes through obstacles as he joins the soccer team at his new school behind his parent's back. I loved Spencer's character and related a lot to his struggles with his family, and internally. I appreciated the author including Spencer being on hormone blockers and giving an educational moment for readers to learn more about this life-changing medicine. Also, I really admired the inclusion of other queer, trans, and gender non-conforming characters as the story also focuses on the importance of gender-neutral bathrooms. 

Aiden was an excellent character for Spencer and I LOVED that Aiden gave him advice and didn't force him to come out. 

The Passing Playbook is also about a trans boy just existing with his friends and having a romance with another boy. I really enjoyed this debut novel and would recommend it to anyone looking to read more sports stories and trans #ownvoices stories.

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