A review by criticalgayze
The Passing Playbook, by Isaac Fitzsimons

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


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!

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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