All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver

on January 11, 2021

I Wish You All The Best 
Mason Deaver
Push
2019, 336p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

It’s just three words: I am nonbinary. But that’s all it takes to change everything.

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

I had heard really good things about this book and I don’t think I’ve ever read something where the main character is non-binary and revolves around the issues and fallout from coming out as such, to their parents. Ben has come to realise this about themselves, with their preferred pronouns being “they” and “them”. Ben’s parents have already fallen out with Ben’s older sister Hannah – she left for college 10 years ago and never looked back. Ben had been struggling with the issue of their identity for a while and has decided that they have to be honest with their parents about themselves. I don’t think they could’ve predicted the fallout – they are kicked out of the house immediately in the depths of winter and have to use a payphone to call Hannah, begging her to come and get them. Hannah does immediately and takes Ben back to the home where she lives with her husband Thomas, a high school science teacher. Together they agree to give Ben a place in their home and get them enrolled in the same high school where Thomas is a teacher. There Ben meets Nathan, who is chosen to show Ben around the school. Although Ben is reserved, Nathan is hard to ignore and slowly he sneaks his way in under Ben’s walls.

I’m not sure if it’s Ben’s desperation to be accepted by their parents or perhaps teenage naivety that means that they don’t really seem to consider the potential possibility of rejection. Ben even admits that their father is somewhat difficult – their parents also seem highly religious and the father in particular, judgemental (anti-gay, etc). However every child just wants to be loved and accepted by their parents for who they are, no matter what that is and Ben is no longer able to really stand hearing pronouns that they do not identify with any longer. Thankfully after their father casts them out of the house, they find acceptance with Hannah, who along with Thomas, make a huge effort to use the correct pronouns and give Ben somewhere safe where they can be themselves. Ben is grateful for that, but they still have issues with Hannah, particularly the way she disappeared without a trace. Ben understands that Hannah had to leave – and perhaps why, after the fallout with their father – but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t some resentment about her disappearance from Ben’s life, even as she’s trying to make amends by helping Ben now.

As I mentioned, I am pretty sure this is the first book I’ve read with a non-binary main character and I do not have any experience with a person who identifies that way in real life so this book was a chance to learn and understand a bit more, the ways in which people can identify this about themselves, their choices to ‘come out’ (or not) to those they know and trust etc. Ben has a non-binary friend, someone they met online that has been a huge support for them and I would honestly imagine that many people in Ben’s situation probably find support in this way – seeking out people who feel the same way they do or seeing/hearing something online that strikes a chord within them. Especially if they’re in Ben’s situation where it’s not an easy choice to come out and there’s a chance of rejection or ignorance. Ben’s parents both accidentally and deliberately misgender them and misgendering is a very upsetting experience for Ben, even when it comes from people who have no idea that they identify as non-binary and are not aware that they are doing it. Ben’s parents do not seem willing to listen and understand and Ben definitely struggles with making a difficult choice in order for their own mental health. I was happy to see that Hannah gently suggested the idea of counselling for Ben and that the counsellor she had discovered, was very familiar with issues for those who are LGBTQIP+. Ben had been through (and was still going through) an awful lot and had issues with depression and anxiety as well, revolving around being kicked out of their home and rejected and abused by the two people who should care about them the most. I always wonder what I would do if one of my children did a certain thing – and if any of them ever realise something about themselves like Ben does, I know how not to act. My goal would be to be more of a Hannah.

There’s a romance in this but it’s not a primary focus and I sort of wish it had been a little more. Ben has a lot going on in their lives though and I guess in a way, romance is the least of their concerns and it happens anyway, but I think for me, I’d have liked a bit more chemistry build up. Nathan is a lovely character, he’s the softest cinnamon roll who is accepting and friendly and sweet and has this incredible approach to life and folds Ben into his life – both in school and out of it – without hesitation, even when Ben tries to avoid such entanglements. But I definitely get why it was lower key, considering there was so much going on in Ben’s life.

I enjoyed this – it’s a sweet story of Ben finding people who do accept them, even as they learn that sometimes, you have to let things go in order to grow. But more than that, I’m sure it’ll be an important book for a lot of people, for them to see themselves, or someone like them, represented in fiction.

8/10

Book #4 of 2021

 


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