Symptoms of Being Human – Jeff Garvin

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Symptoms of Being Human – Jeff GarvinSymptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 2, 2016
Genres: Bullying, LGBT, Self-Esteem, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: Kindle
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on Amazon

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?
Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is . . . Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.
On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender-fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.


I kept hearing about Symptoms of Being Human. It was on a ridiculous amount of most anticipated 2016 debuts so when offered a chance to read it, I snapped it up. As you may have noticed by previous reviews, I enjoy diverse books and like expanding my horizons by reading about different perspectives. I am glad I was able to read this, as gender fluid is not something I was familiar with. It is defined as – Gender Fluid is a gender identity best described as a dynamic mix of boy and girl. A person who is Gender Fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders, but may feel more boy some days, and more girl other days. Being Gender Fluid has nothing to do with which set of genitalia one has, nor their sexual orientation.

One of the main plot points of Symptoms of Being Human is that you do not know if the main character, Riley, is biologically male or female. I admit, at first, I tried to suss it out and kept looking for clues. Then a few chapters in, the story sucked me in and I forgot the gender issue and became entranced with Riley. Riley is a person trying to figure out where they best fit in, and not feeling comfortable in their own skin. Adding to this is the fact that Riley is a Congressman running for re-election in a conservative county. Riley tries to blend in and stay below the radar, until the blog that holds his/her innermost thoughts gets exposed.

Jeff Garvin created such a real world with the Symptoms of Being Human. I could visualize the school halls and sense the angst. The pacing was good, not too fast and not too slow. The plot was spectacular, such a unique view. The writing was crisp and carried the emotions well. Riley was a fantastic main character and so were the friends. The on negative was the standard YA parents. Unconcerned with their child’s emotions, they kept forcing their views and needs on Riley. Yes, I understand you need conflict to carry on a plot, but the school bullies did it just fine. One of these days YA parents will be supportive.

The Symptoms of Being Human is Jeff Garvin’s debut novel. In it he created a character to give a unique voice to an underserved community. I sincerely hope that Garvin continues to write and expand, not just my horizons, but those everywhere. Diversity in books is so important and I am glad to add another author to the list of diverse reads I loved.

Favorite lines – In my head, I understand what’s happening, and I can see the steps to getting through it. But in my guts, in my heart, I’m lost. Like I’m out in the middle of the ocean, swimming as hard as I can with no hope of land and no sign of progress. I see no shoreline, only an infinite, unbroken horizon.

Biggest cliché – YA parents being YA parents.

 Have you read Symptoms of Being Human, or added it to your TBR?

Rating Report
Overall: four-stars

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2016 Debut Author Challenge
  • 2016 Diverse Books Reading Challenge
  • 2016 New Release Challenge
  • Mount TBR Reading Challenge
  • Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge
  • The Goodreads Challenge

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Posted January 28, 2016 by Laura in Reviews / 2 Comments

2 responses to “Symptoms of Being Human – Jeff Garvin

  1. Haven’t heard of this book before, but I love the concept. I want to know more about Riley now. He/She seems very intriguing as a person trying to find out where he/she fits in.