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  • Breaking up is hard to do!

    The focal character is changing gender roles during his senior year in high school. It's set in the present day (released today, 2021), so the characters were born around 2003. The trans guy knows he's self-centered. To some extent, that's normal during gender transition; even apart from his gender, he's an attention-seeker, too, such that he runs for Homecoming King. This novel captures a lot of what it's like to transition as a teenager. As much as is possible, it's conceptually clear, but also it mud-wrestles with the inevitable messiness of transgender life and identity. When I transitioned during my senior year of high school 23 years ago -- like this narrator, a gay transgender young man who was only a few weeks on testosterone at the time, although I was more introverted and less socially competitive -- a book like this did not exist, and I cannot picture exactly how my brain would have exploded if someone had handed me such a futuristic item, but it would have exploded for the better, allowing me to put Many Complicated Things into Better Words. Nor can I imagine how everyone else's brains might have exploded, because "trans" did not seem to be a preexisting concept for most people I knew 23 years ago, whereas the character in this novel does benefit from *mostly* not having to explain absolutely everything to absolutely everyone, because he can just say "trans" and it basically clicks for most people. People do need books like this so that this experience can be mirrored and explored, and I am glad this book exists for teenagers to have today.

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  • cute story, great characters, uneven writing

    May the Best Man Win by ZR Ellor is a moving story of two boys, who used to date, competing for Homecoming King at their high school. The attention-loving cheerleader, Jeremy, is trans and dealing with a host of issues as he and the people around him adjust to his identity. Lukas, the football player who never could live up to the legacy of his older brother, who recently died, is dealing with a complicated family situation and trying to conceal his autism. They both have plenty of obstacles to get to the crown and will have to reckon with their unresolved feelings about one another, as well. This book has a lot to praise, most significantly the important representation within both the two main characters and the supporting cast. Readers from myriad backgrounds and identities will see teenagers like them on the page. It's nice to see characters with serious flaws and supporting characters with thought-out arcs and full lives, even if much of it is off the page. We also see the characters face discrimination, which happens in various forms and in a range of severity. The main characters can be frustrating at times with their major blunders and huge blindspots that don't always feel realistic. But despite some flaws, I'm so glad this book is out in the world. I'd strongly recommend it for teen readers! Thank you Netgalley and Macmillan Audio for the audiobook!

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  • I See You

    CW: Death of family member, transphobia, homophobia, sexual harassment, bullying, assault (on and off page), ableism, misgendering, toxic masculinity I really struggled writing this review. I wasn’t expecting May the Best Man Win to be so gut wrenching and emotional. Readers should definitely be aware that this is not a cute and lighthearted romcom. There are certainly tender and sweet moments, but the majority of the novel is an emotional rollercoaster of anger, pain, fear, and confusion. The overall tone was very dark, with the main characters doing anything and everything to achieve their own selfish goals. I understand that Jeremy and Lukas are flawed individuals, but they did some pretty unforgivable things to each other and their supposed friends. I didn’t feel that there was ever really any accountability or reckoning for those actions. This made it hard to root for Lukas or Jeremy individually and/or as a couple since they were so unlikeable. Ultimately, I think there was so much going on in the book that it felt overwhelming and disjointed. Readers are only allowed to skim the surface of many of the topics and issues. For example, Lukas’s autism is mentioned, but only to explain some of his actions. His internalized ableism is never fully addressed or given the proper attention. The pacing seemed to stall and meander a bit in the middle and then suddenly it was racing to the finish. The entire drama about financially saving Homecoming felt over the top and unbelievable. I enjoyed Ben, Naomi, and Sol a lot, but I felt like they were almost like props, only to be used when convenient to move the story along. I wish those characters had been explored more, especially Sol. The writing kept me reading to see what would happen next though and the book brought up many interesting and thoughtful discussions about sexuality and queerness. I appreciated the raw honesty and vulnerability of the characters and I think many readers will find beauty and comfort in this novel. *I voluntarily read an advance review copy of this book*

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