I really appreciate YA novels (well, any book in general but YA in particular) that make me see beyond the narrative and immerse me in a feeling. A feeling so powerful and distinct that it alone carries me through the book. It makes me feel a kinship with the characters. I ride their rollercoaster of emotions and get a true sense of who that character is–their hopes, dreams, fears.
The Symptoms of Being Human gave me this feeling. The main character, Riley is so fleshed out and relatable. Their struggle to get comfortable in their own skin (they’re genderfluid) and how they navigated the world came off so viscerally. The people they surround themselves with make the story all the more enjoyable.
One thing that I really liked about this story was that the narrative never betrayed Riley. True to its message and its character, the story presents Riley as both and neither. They’re carving out their own identity in this world. I half expected the narrative to out them at some point but it never did and this really helped solidify the narrative’s message.
My main complaint about this story is that though it has a lot of emotional depth, the plot is a bit thin. Other than a highly publicized climax, the story is mostly composed of character interactions mostly at school. Other key events are not experienced by Riley. They happen outside and far from them. This is not completely a bad thing. I personally got so swept up in the high character moments to never notice while reading but upon reflection, I would’ve appreciated it more if there was more to the story. At least from Riley’s POV.