Isaac Fitzsimons is the author of The Passing Playbook (Dial BFYR/PRH, 2021). He
writes Young Adult fiction featuring intentionally marginalized characters so that every
reader can see themselves reflected in literature.
His background includes performing sketch comedy in college, learning how to play
three songs on the banjo, and, of course, writing.
His dream vacation would be traveling around Europe via sleeper train to see every top-
tier soccer team play a home game. He currently lives outside DC and works for an arts
advocacy nonprofit in the city.
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Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.
At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing.
So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.
Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is coming to shelves near you on June 1st.
Thoughts and Themes: I was a bit skeptical about starting this book because I don’t really like sports themed books but I’m glad that I kept reading on. There is so much more to this story than just the sports plot line.
I liked so much about this and my feelings were all over the place as I read this story. There are some heartwarming moments that I was just rooting for Spencer and Justice in, and then there were heart breaking moments too. There were moments in which I was angry along with Spencer but then sad for Justice. I just wanted to protect both of the main characters from enduring any harm, and give them the safe space that they longed for.
I liked how this book has being queer and belonging to a religious family. I thought it was good to see how Justice’s family being religious affected him being out and how that went into his relationship with Spencer. This was such a hard thing to read through and recall how my coming out experience was because of my religious upbringing.
I have so much to say about this book and all of the feelings that I had while reading it. This is definitely going to be added to my list of comfort reads as I loved it so much.
Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters in their interactions with Spencer. You get to meet the love interest, Justice, the coach, another trans student, Riley, Spencer’s brother, Theo, Spencer’s best friend, Aiden, and several of the soccer team players.
I found each of the characters that you meet through this story to be lovable. I really loved the way the soccer team embraced Spencer when he comes out and how unexpected that is. I like how this shows a different side to sport team members, and how transphobia doesn’t have to exist in that space. I thought that was the most important thing that was shown, the book really shows that transphobia and homophobia have no place in sports, and that they don’t have to exist in sports.
I also really loved how supportive Spencer’s family is of him, I like how even if they struggle with the right thing to say or do they still support him. I liked getting pieces of Spencer’s brother in the story and seeing how Spencer tries to take up less space because of Theo being Autistic. I think seeing Spencer navigate being out and knowing how much attention that would bring to his family was good to see because we see him finally think about himself rather than everyone before him.
I really enjoyed Justice as our love interest and as a side character. I thought he was well developed and really liked the complexity he deals with being queer and having religion play a large role in his life. I thought this was really important to see especially as we see that both those identities can coexist, both peacefully but also negatively. I thought it was good to see the contrast between Justice’s families’ beliefs and what he believed. I also really liked how Justice just accepted that Spencer is trans and there was no dilemma with that.
Writing Style: This story is told in third person with a somewhat all knowing narrator. I tend to get frustrated with stories being told in third person but I actually liked this pov for this book. I liked that we got to read about so many different feelings and thoughts. I also liked that we got to follow different characters but I thought it was well done so that it didn’t feel like there was too many things going on.