I knew it would be. Too many of my GR friends whose opinions on books I usually align with loved it. I definitely wasn’t expecting to become so angry while reading the first several chapters that I could literally feel in my face that my blood pressure was rising, and the corners of my vision went sort of black. This poor child. All the poor children. What the fuck, parents, what the actual fuck is wrong with you.
Oh my god, this keeps happening when I think about this.
Ben De Backer, a kind and sensitive human being, is kicked out by their parents for coming out as nonbinary. In the middle of winter, in the middle of the night, not even wearing shoes. All Ben wants is to stop hiding who they are from the people who are supposed to love them no matter what, but who instead take all of Ben’s trust placed in them and kill it with fire. Ben’s parents are not functional to begin with, their father in particular is controlling and has very definite ideas about how his “son” should be. We find out very soon into the narrative that Ben also has an older sister who left their house and hasn’t spoken with their parents in over ten years. Ben has complicated feelings about her, because she left them alone with their parents for so long.
Ben has to start over, essentially, at a new school one semester before graduating from high school, all while dealing with the residual trauma of what their parents did to them, dealing with navigating their new gender identity (their parents kicking them out has pushed them far back into the closet), meeting new people, and deciding what to do with their future, now that it’s not being controlled by their parents. And meeting a boy, a very nice boy named Nathan.
This was just a really well-written novel about a character going through a rough transition, with thoughtfulness and empathy. Ben is not a perfect character. They make bad choices, let their emotions get the best of them sometimes, are very unsure a lot of the time. It felt very real. I also appreciated being so far inside the head of a nonbinary character. I liked that their relationship with their parents wasn’t resolved perfectly, because realistically people like that need more than a few months to do the work needed in order to deserve to have someone like Ben in their lives. But I did wish that Ben would have gotten in some sort of scathing remark at the end there, or that someone would have, and that their parents would have listened. I just really like when characters get comeuppance like that, even as I recognize it’s not realistic.
I will definitely read future books by Mason Deaver, who is also nonbinary.