Title: Act Cool
Author: Tobly McSmith
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 352
When August’s mom and stepdad find out he’s transgender and try to send him to conversion therapy, he runs away and moves in with his lesbian aunt. An aspiring actor, he gets accepted into a prestigious theater school but even though he gets to live as a boy alongside his classmates, his mom makes him promise that if he stays with his aunt he can’t transition.
He has to keep the charade up with his family and on top of that pressure he gets pulled into the conflict involving a controversial casting decision for a play with a trans character. Between the problems with his family, trying to prove his merit as an actor, and relationship and friendship drama, August is having trouble keeping his head above water.
Will his mom and stepdad ever relinquish control over his gender identity, and will he be able to make it in a school full of talented up-and-comers? Act Cool is Tobly McSmith’s solid follow-up to his debut novel Stay Gold, and they both follow somewhat similar transgender characters following their passions and dealing with family issues. I found most of the supporting characters in Act Cool fairly forgettable, with the exception of August’s awesomely supportive aunt.
I didn’t care that much about any of the theater kids he hung out with and had trouble keeping them straight. One thing I did like was August’s strong bond with his aunt and the inner conflict he experienced with having a mother he loved but who did not accept him. It made it feel more realistic than him just having a ‘bad’ relationship with his family and wanting to get out.
The details about acting and the controversies over casting and representation were interesting and I felt like I really got a good sense of how important acting and theater were to August. The romance element was just meh because there were three different girls who liked him and I could take them or leave them, and Yasmin and Anna seemed like drama queens.
Maggie was definitely the best of the three, but she was very underdeveloped. I’ve been feeling burned out with reading transgender-themed books lately but I’ve enjoyed both of McSmith’s books so far and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what he puts out next.