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Symptoms of Being Human

Symptoms of Being Human

Book - 2016
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"A gender-fluid teenager who struggles with identity creates a blog on the topic that goes viral, and faces ridicule at the hands of fellow students"-- Provided by publisher.
Some days Riley Cavanaugh identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. But Riley isn't exactly out yet: between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in über-conservative Orange County, the pressure is building. On the advice of a therapist Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it's really like to be a gender fluid teenager. But when the blog goes viral, Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created-- or stand up, come out, and risk everything.
Publisher: New York : Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2016]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062382863
Call Number: F GARVIN J
Characteristics: 335 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Riley, the child of a Congressman, secretly blogs about being gender fluid.

Riley starts a gender identity blog that goes viral. Riley’s father, a politician is in a heated reelection campaign, and it has Riley wanting to keep the blog on the DL. Riley doesn’t want anyone at the new school to know about it, but starts to get some threats, some that might be close to home... Read More »

List - Teen Picks - Pride!
SFPL_Teen Jun 16, 2016


Riley, the child of a Congressman, sometimes identifies as a boy, other times as a girl. Interacting with peers is difficult and so Riley starts an anonymous blog to talk about what it's really like to be gender fluid. When someone discovers Riley's true identity, Riley must decide whether to wal... Read More »

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Jan 26, 2021

I loved this book, and found out how much I can relate. I love all the characters, and if someone is reading this comment trying to decide if you should check it out... Just do it. It is definitely worth your time!!


Riley Cavanaugh is gender fluid. Some days Riley feels like a girl, sometimes like a boy, sometimes like neither. When Riley switches from private school to public school, the confusion only grows. Riley has to learn to deal with misunderstanding peers and the crippling anxiety that comes along with their ridicule. Not knowing what else to do, Riley hesitantly follows a therapist's advice involving starting an anonymous online blog in order to cope. Riley is surprised, however, when the blog goes viral. Riley finally feels a sense of belonging in the online community, and as the number of followers grow, so does Riley's self acceptance. Unfortunately, Riley's blog attracts some negative attention, too. Riley begins to receive threatening messages. The sender of the messages seems to know Riley, and says that if the blog is not shut down, Riley will be outed. So much for the blog being therapeutic. This book explores a perspective that I myself am not familiar with, but the author explores the subject in the best possible way. This book discusses the very painful topic of verbal and physical violence against those who are different by putting the reader in the narrator's shoes. I would recommend this amazing book to anyone interested in using a book to get to know people who are unlike them (even if these people only exist within the confines of the novel), all while being immersed in writing that is both entertaining and eloquent. On a scale of 1-5, I would rate this book a 5.
Milla, grade 7, Yorba Linda Teen Book Bloggers

Nov 13, 2019

It was enjoyable in the sense that Riley, the main character, was relatable and funny. However, Riley seems pretty arrogant and thinks [insert pronouns] are the greatest. Nobody can tell what gender Riley is. When they assume Riley is a girl or a boy, Riley acts as if they are harassing Riley. But when a person calls Riley “it”, Riley full on flips out! The text says, “I haven’t been here five minutes, and the harassment has already started.” Throughout the book, Riley is constantly calling others idiots for the smallest of reasons! When people assume Riley’s gender, Riley starts acting like they’re a monster. But then, Riley assumes somebody else’s gender and gets all defensive!

Sep 16, 2019

An excellent depiction of both the experience of being nonbinary trans and the experience of having anxiety. The character Riley was extremely enjoyable to read and I was very impressed with the author's decision to keep their gender assignment at birth out of the book completely (I think I speak for more than a few enbies when I say we certainly wish our gender assignment at birth could be omitted from our lives). Because it's perfectly irrelevant what gender Riley was assigned at birth (a fact many cis people don't seem to be able to understand), the omittance of any potential details–calling what they wore when out with their father a "campaign costume", for example–was an appreciated reinforcement for anyone obsessed with finding out what gender Riley "really" was. I felt it had a positive but realistic message for young queer people. I would enjoy reading more by this author.

Feb 23, 2019
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Feb 05, 2019

This book is clearly ABOUT trans people rather than FOR us. All but one of the many, many trans characters have something awful happen to them as a direct result of their identities, up to and including sexual assault. This very much feels like trans people in this book are written as a sideshow, people whose suffering exists for drama and is being put on display for cis people’s entertainment. Garvin evokes pity, not empathy.

EDIT: After taking a few hours to calm down, I realize that there are many aspects of this book that other trans people, especially young people, might find validating and relatable. As someone who just wanted to read about someone like myself, I found the messages of Riley being hurt and hated and scared without being able to meaningfully fight back or be supported for most of the book painful and enraging. I honestly felt like trans people in the book didn't have interests or goals that weren't directly related to their transness. Riley's crush on Bec felt like the only thing Riley did/had that wasn't largely or entirely motivated/affected by their existence as a trans person. Everything about being trans felt like it was nothing but a negative influence on lives and experiences, a curse. It was like trans people couldn't be happy without paying a toll, proving they had suffered for their identities. Yes, I and every other trans person I know has had bad experiences, both internally from dysphoria and externally from transphobes and so on, but the whole point of advocacy is so that it doesn't have to be that way for others. Stop playing transness for drama and start letting us be people with a full range of interests and motivations. Being trans informs our lives, but it isn't everything we are, and suffering isn't everything it means to be trans. Let me see myself in a book without having to see myself terrified, depressed, and sexually assaulted.

Aug 24, 2018

This book goes on my list of "things I wish I'd had when I was a kid." A YA novel that adults can definitely enjoy and learn from. I fell in love with Riley, the main character, from page one. One of the best books I've read in a long time.

Jul 11, 2018

Symptoms of Being Human was a great read. I really enjoyed how it put the reader in the shoes of a gender fluid teenager. Since I don't identify as such, it was a really eye-opening experience. I found the choice of not including any pronouns for Riley interesting, and out of the few books I've read about non-cisgender people, I've never seen it done. Whether or not you are gender fluid, I strongly recommend this book.

Sep 21, 2017

A 2018-2019 Missouri Gateway Readers Award preliminary nominee (grades 9-12).

Riley's life is complicated. Riley just started at a new school after the school year had already begun. Riley's father is running for reelection to the House of Representatives. Oh, and Riley is gender fluid, which means that on any given day Riley might feel more like a boy or a girl, and Riley is not out. On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts a blog, and the blog goes viral and gets more attention than Riley wanted.

I devoured this book, but there were a few things I didn't love about it. I felt like the author veered a little too close to afterschool special territory sometimes. I would advise against the audiobook, although I looked it up on Audible, and I appear to be in the minority.

Jun 03, 2017

What an excellent read! I learned so much. At first, I thought it was a little cheeky -- especially the whole I've got an anonymous blog and it has my deepest darkest secrets and it's suddenly popular and it gets revealed. That basic plot line was a struggle for me. HOWEVER, that said, I fell in love with the characters, Riley, Solo, Bev the whole lot of them. It was dynamic and interesting and honest. Also, I instantly liked it more when the book took a serious turn. It earned so much more respect from me when that happened and I was able to let the cheeky plot line issues go in light of that turn and that challenge presented to the characters and the storyline.

Aside from Magnus Chase and The Hammer of Thor, I have never read about a gender fluid character and, like I said, I learned a lot and feel more educated for having read this book.

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Nov 23, 2020

poolsarecool24 thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over

Nov 13, 2019

blue_monkey_3281 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Feb 23, 2019

bell5133 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Sep 21, 2017

booknrrd thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

BostonPL_JordanD Mar 03, 2016

BostonPL_JordanD thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add Notices
Sep 21, 2019

Other: On-page physical/sexual assault motivated by transphobia; off-page suicide.


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