I have to admit I was a little surprised to see a Pride display at the local Barnes and Noble that still had a copy of I Wish You All The Best. Also for the record, I really dislike the use of the word “important” to designate something genuinely meaningful that everyone should seek out, but this might be one of those titles which actually deserves that term in that sense.
If you can’t imagine the struggle of someone who wants to come out but worries about how it might be taken by those around them, you need to read this. If you imagine you’re an ally and know how to interact with LGBTQIA+ people, you need to read this. If you are LGBTQIA+ yourself, you can probably relate to at least some of the characters and events.
The basic story is that Ben de Becker comes out as non-binary to his (birth sex, not identity) parents a few months before graduating from high school and gets thrown out of the house. The only person they (that’s Ben’s preferred pronoun) can think to call for help is their sister whom they haven’t seen in 10 years since she left home (as in estranged from the family left). Luckily Hannah comes to get Ben, and takes them home with her. Ben now has to figure out how to build a life at Hannah’s with a brother in law they’ve never met and a sister they struggle to connect with, start at a new school, make friends, and figure out what to do with the rest of their life.
Hannah and her husband Thomas are supportive of Ben, Ben makes some friends, reconnects with his artistic talents, and meets Nathan a popular guy at school who takes Ben under his wing. Ben struggles with making friends with Nathan, but they eventually connect at which point Ben has to figure out how to come out again. Ben also has an internet friend who makes a living out of advising and speaking to LGBTQ+ people, Mariam, and their chats are both entertaining and touching.
Ben’s parents are textbook how not to respond to someone coming out to you, even beyond the throwing Ben out of the house (“This is confusing for us, we’re trying and we know how this works now because we looked it up on the Internet”). Hannah is the textbook how to respond (basically, “O.K. What’s your pronoun?”). By the end of the novel, Ben has started to come to grips and accept their new life and make some decisions about their future. It’s a happy ending that not everyone gets, which makes it all the more happy. Ben has a plan for after graduation, some family that accepts them as they are, and even a significant other. Read this, not just for the story and the happy ending but for a genuinely realistic perspective of what it can be like being open about identity.