This was such a heartfelt and poignant coming-of-age story with a main character that immediately stole my heart! It’s a story about a transgender boy finding himself and his voice within and outside the LGBTQIA community, and learning to stand tall against intolerance, rejection, hate, bullying and violence (please be aware of the trigger warnings). But it’s also a warm and hopeful story about finding love and friendship, and being surprised by the good in people.
When Pony starts senior year in a new high school, he wishes for nothing more than to feel normal. Average. Nothing special. Not that the first thing people thought about him would be his gender. Tired from all the attention and bullying he got at his old school after coming out as transgender, he therefore decides to go stealth and keep his head down for the rest of the year. But on the very first day he locks eyes with the school’s most popular cheerleader, and going stealth is no longer an option if he wants to get close to a girl like Georgia.
Even though this book dealt with a lot of difficult and heavy topics such as dysphoria, transphobia and deadnaming of a trans character, homophobia, bullying, assault, suicidal thoughts, public outing and death of a loved one, it was nevertheless a warm and hopeful story, showing the power of love. There were so many amazing characters, and wonderful banter with adorable romcom moments!
This story pulled me in already from the start, and I read the whole book in one sitting, anxiously wishing for Pony to be accepted for who he was and get the love he deserved.
I absolutely adored the sibling relation between Pony and his sister Rocky and how they always supported each other. Especially when it came to their dad and his rude comments, transphobia and constant use of Pony’s deadname. I also loved Georgia as a character with all her fun flaws and quirks, but I didn’t like the way she always cared about what others would think of her and how she rejected Pony when he told her the truth and made it into a thing about Pony being a liar, rather than about Georgia herself being borderline transphobic.
I also had some issues with the very strong ‘out and proud’ theme, and all the criticism that Pony got for trying to just get on with his life for a while after his previous negative experiences. His best friend (the very out and proud) Max even cancelled their friendship when Pony didn’t feel comfortable to publicly support a petition and hence risk coming out in his new school. I absolutely do think it’s important to stay true to yourself, but I would have liked a more nuanced discussion about safety as well. The threat of intolerance and violence is, sadly, all too realistic (which also an event in the book clearly showed).
But luckily Georgia did some amazing character growth and made much better choices and actions in the end. And some of the other side characters really surprised me in their support for Pony and how they stepped up to do better and learn from their mistakes. I also truly enjoyed the way Pony grew during the year we got to follow him, and how he found the power to speak up for himself and the braveness to risk rejection for a chance of love.
All in all, this was such a gripping story with all the feels; sad but hopeful, painful but full of love and friendship! It was much more gripping and had some really intense and painful scenes than might be expected from the synopsis, but it wraps up on a positive note showing how everyone needs and deserves to be seen, worthy and loved for who they are.
4.5 stars rounding up to 5
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abby Kaitz Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alice Winn Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira Amanda Woody A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Ban Gilmartin Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cait Nary Cale Dietrich Cara Dee Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare Cat Sebastian C.F. White C.G. Drews Charlie Adhara Charli Meadows Chasten Buttigieg Chris Bedell Christina Lauren Christina Lee Ciara Smyth Claerie Kavanaugh Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Courtney Kae Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Dallas Smith Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton D.N. Bryn Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E.L. Massey E. Lockhart Emery Lee Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens F.T. Lukens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hannah Grace Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving H.S. Valley Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacob Gelman Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson James L. Sutter Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jen Bailey Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé Kathy Anderson K.A. Tucker KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Lauren Shippen Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Lex Croucher Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr M.A. Wardell Melanie Munton Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nathaniel Shea Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Nyla K. Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rachel Reid Racquel Marie Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Taylor Jenkins Reid Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Tracy Deonn Tucker Shaw Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez