There’s only one thing standing between Finch Kelly and a full-blown case of high school senioritis: the National Speech & Debate Tournament. Taking home the gold would not only be the pinnacle of Finch’s debating career, but the perfect way to launch himself into his next chapter: college in Washington, D.C. and a history-making career as the first trans congressman. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, for starters, Finch could develop a teeny tiny crush on his very attractive, very taken, and very gay debate partner, Jonah. Never mind that Finch has never considered whether he’s interested in more than just girls.
And that dream of college in DC? Finch hasn’t exactly been accepted anywhere yet, let alone received the full-ride scholarship he’ll need to make this dream a reality.
Worst of all, though, is this year’s topic for Nationals: transgender rights. If he wants to cinch the gold, and get into college, Finch might have to argue against his own humanity.
People say there are two sides to every argument. But, as Finch is about to discover, some things–like who you are and who you love–are not up for debate.
Thank you to Penguin Random House for the advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my review.
Thoughts and Themes: I had to pause several times while reading this book just to give it a hug and I don’t hug books too often. There was just too much to love about this book and so many relatable moments.
I enjoyed the debate aspect of this book a lot and how Finch tries to see both sides in each of the debates that he is in. I really liked how we get to see Finch attempt to debate both for and against Transgender rights. I liked the way this book goes about discussing this topic because you get to see how this makes Finch feel and how these types of conversations and this rhetoric really affects Trans people.
I liked getting to see each of the character’s feelings about multiple things on the page. You get to see them angry, sad, torn, heartbroken, and more, and each of those feelings was unique to each person but very realistic.
Characters: In this story you get introduced to Finch and several other characters through their interactions with Finch. You get to meet Finch’s sister, Roo, his best friend, Lucy, his debate partner, Jonah, his parents, his competition, and some other people at his school.
I loved each of the characters that you got to meet in this book and I loved the different relationship that Finch has with each of them. I loved the interactions that Finch has with his sister and how important Roo is to him. I love watching as Finch tries to protect his sister, and seeing him in this light.
I also enjoy watching as Finch and Jonah’s relationship develops and changes throughout the book. I liked seeing how much each of them care for the other and how Jonah knows how to calm Finch down.
Writing Style: This story is told in first person through Finch’s perspective. I loved that this story is told through Finch’s perspective because we get to see his feelings about everything going on in his life. We get to see his inner turmoil regarding his sexuality, his feelings about his home life, and his feelings about debate and the topic that was chosen for that year.
PEYTON THOMAS is a freelance journalist with bylines in Pitchfork, Billboard, and Vanity Fair. He was a 2016 Lambda Literary Fellow, studying under Benjamin Alire Sáenz. He lives in Toronto. Both Sides Now is his debut novel.