Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to.
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Today’s pick is a timely and heartfelt read where every single character shines.
Both Sides Now by Peyton Thomas
Finch Kelly is a transgender teen in Olympia, Washington and he is obsessed with getting into Georgetown University so that he could be in Washington, D.C. and become the first transgender congressman. Finch’s parents are trying to convince him to stay in Washington state because there is no way they can afford to send him to Georgetown. Finch’s dad doesn’t work and his mom makes very little money as a journalist for a local paper that always seems on the brink of going under.
Finch is shoving the money part out of his mind and is focusing on getting into Georgetown in the first place. He and his friend Jonah are the stars of their high school debate team and Finch sees this as his ticket into the school. He figures if they win the state championship and then the nationals, there’s no way that Georgetown can turn him down.
Finch is also going through a bit of a crisis interpersonally. He isn’t really out as trans to most people. His family knows, his best friend/ex-girlfriend knows, and Jonah, his debate partner, knows. Jonah is cisgender and gay and in the “perfect” relationship with Bailey. Bailey is the star of the school’s theatre department and desperately wants to go to Juilliard. In fact, Bailey got to pick this year’s musical that he is starring in, Perfectly Modern Millie which he’s gender-flipped to be Perfectly Modern Billie.
As I mentioned, Finch is in a bit of a crisis because he’s starting to have squishy feelings for Jonah but at the same time he is very adamant about not being gay himself. So he figures that these feelings must be anxiety and he shoves them down repeatedly. Anyway, he has the national debate championship to worry about. The topic for the national debate championship is: “This House would allow transgender students in public schools to use the bathroom facilities of their choice.”
Just in case you don’t know how high school debate works, in competition, you have to take turns arguing each side. For and against. So, in order to have his best shot at getting into his dream school and dream life, Finch is going to have to argue against his own humanity.
This book was really anxiety-inducing but also cute, funny, and lovely and I highly recommend it.
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That’s it for now, book-lovers!
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