Kellan, star quarterback and secret manga artist, has fallen hard for Maddie, a trans-girl and Twitch streamer. They’ve gone to school together for years, but Kellan never noticed her until she started presenting as her authentic self. Now she’s all he can think about, even as the rest of his world is crumbling.
But she’s terrified that he’s deluded, not seeing her for who she really is. Will she take a chance and let him in? Will they be able to overcome a cruel society that would rather erase Maddie than accept her? Or will Kellan walk away when the pressure becomes too much?
Written by #OwnVoices transgender author Riley Rian, “I Love You Just the Way You Are” is a timely coming-of-age novel about opening your heart and discovering the power and magic of love.
Thoughts and Themes: I was so excited to get a chance to read this book and review it since I hardly find any books with Trans girls in them. I was a bit intimidated when it first showed up on my doorstep though because of how long the book is. I am so glad that I deided to give it a chance though because once I picked it up it was hard to put down, there was just so much to love about this book.
I really enjoyed how in this book you get to see different reactions to Maddie being Trans and we get to see what people say when she isn’t in the room. I liked that we get to see the ways in which Kellan is treated for having interest in a Trans girl by his friends, parents, and coach. I thought it was great to see how Maddie apologizes for this but Kellan recognizes that what people are saying to him is nothing in comparison to how Maddie is treated.
I really liked that this book also included Maddie being a streamer and how that played a large role in her life. I liked the pieces that described her playing games and the throwback to older games and consoles. I liked that streaming is how we get to see another side of Maddie along with Kellan which makes you like her as a character.
Characters: In this book you are introduced to several people through their interactions with Kellan and Maddie. You get to meet Maddie’s family, Kellan’s mom and dad, and both of their friends. I really liked the relationships that are shown throughout this book with all of the characters that are included.
I love the relationship between Kellan and Maddie even though there are times when they both annoy me and there are times that the relationship is toxic. I thought it was very accurate to a teenage relationship and both of their reactions to things were genuine. As a Trans person, Kellan is all I want in someone who loves me, just someone who sees me for me and I love that Maddie gets this. It’s always great to get to see Trans people find love in books and someone who genuinely loves who they are beyond their Trans identity.
While I did love the relationship between Kellan and Maddie at times, it is important to note that there are some issues with it. Kellan pursued Maddie after she consistently rejected him and he even pretended to be someone else to speak to her on her stream. Kellan also then stalks Maddie throughout the summer and stands up for her countless times even when she is uncomfortable with all of this behavior. We know that part of the rejection on Maddie’s end was out of fear but I also think its important to not show men that just being pushy and begging will eventually get you the girl. I also thought it was a bit problematic that Kellan was throwing away a lot of his hobbies, friends, and money to get this girl and I understand that some of these were a matter of his values not aligning with the others but I think there was a better way to go about showing how much he cared for Maddie.
I also really loved the relationship that Hugh has both with Maddie and Kellan. I love that we get to see him be supportive of his daughter and also be able to support Kellan in the way he needs. I liked that we get to see the big difference in Hugh and Kellan’s dad and the reason as to why Kellan may have been the way he was before meeting Maddie.
Writing Style: This story is told in first person through the perspective of Maddie and Kellan as it goes back and forth between each of them telling the story. I really liked getting a chance to watch this story unfold through both of their perspectives. I thought this was a great way to tell the story because it allows you to be inside each of their heads and see how they are processing these events. I also like that we get to see both of their concerns before they get together and even during.