Title: The Passing Playbook
Author: Isaac Fitzsimons
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 304
Spencer is a transgender teenage boy who transfers to a new school after a bullying incident and joins their soccer team against his parents’ wishes. He develops a crush on his teammate Justice, who assumes he’s cisgender, and Spencer worries that he won’t like him back if he finds out. Meanwhile, Spencer’s assigned gender on his birth certificate puts him at risk of being disqualified and kicked off the team.
The Passing Playbook is a light, fluffy, and enjoyable story about a headstrong and somewhat nerdy teenage boy struggling to be himself. I liked that his younger brother was on the autism spectrum and nobody made a big deal out of it. It never became a big source of drama or pain for Spencer’s family. I was occasionally annoyed by Spencer’s immaturity and the way he’d give his parents a hard time when they were just trying to look out for her.
He was angry that his parents didn’t want him on the team and said ‘they’d never see him as a real boy,’ when in reality Spencer had been the victim of transphobic hatred before and they just didn’t want him to get the Boys Don’t Cry treatment. He constantly felt misunderstood by them, which is very typical for teenagers but his parents were great people and I wished he would cut them some slack.
This wasn’t nearly as dark as a lot of transgender-themed books, and most of the characters were supportive of Spencer and his gender identity. The sports coach was also great, which is unusual for YA fiction. I liked Spencer and Justice as a couple even though I felt the ‘love-hate’ dynamic of the relationship felt pretty forced at times. It felt like Spencer flip-flopped wildly between ‘I LOVE Justice’ and ‘I HATE Justice,’ which was another indicator of his immaturity.
I actually did like Spencer’s character but I guess he seemed a little younger than his age- he was a high school student but he felt more like thirteen. I enjoyed the light-heartedness of this story and the cast of diverse and sympathetic characters. This is Isaac Fitzsimons’ debut novel and he shows a lot of promise. I sped right through this book and I’m very interested in what he’ll write next.