16 May 2019
I wish I could’ve read a book like this when I was younger. Not just because the content is important and confronting, but I feel like I would’ve enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read a lot of YA fiction myself. It’s a very high school novel, with a main character who experiences partying for the first time and navigates their initial experiences with love and relationships. The main character just happens to be someone who identifies as non-binary. Hopefully, in the future, we can experience more #ownvoices representation for non-binary individuals of all ages. It’s up to us as readers to support authors like Mason Deaver, so publishing companies give other marginalised writers the same experiences.
Ben decides to finally come out to their parents as non-binary. After their sister, Hannah, left when they were younger, they’ve been apprehensive about opening up about their gender identity. However, Ben’s parents kick them out and they’re forced to seek help from their estranged sister. Hannah is welcoming to Ben, finding them a new school to attend and a therapist after they experience anxiety subsequent to coming out. Ben also meets a welcoming boy at school, Nathan, who’s a ray of sunshine. Alongside complications in their family life, Ben experiences a crush for the first time and navigates newfound feelings for their friend.
I Wish You All The Best was a tedious book to get through. Not because it was boring, but the plot is definitely slow-moving and there wasn’t much to hold my attention. Though, most of my issues with this book, in general, can be explained or are either personal preferences. In this instance, the plot focuses on many authentic, real issues occurring in Ben’s life, and I understand there didn’t need to be more drama involved with them. I appreciated the subplot following Ben’s forays to get professional help for their anxiety, including the normalisation of medication used to treat mental health problems. I felt their depiction of anxiety and panic attacks was incredibly realistic (I, personally, have suffered from similar events in the past). Like much of the other diversity in this novel, it’s refreshing that young, queer teens can see an authentic depiction of an anxiety disorder in a book.
On that note, I want to acknowledge that I love that non-binary individuals have a book like this to read. I feel that they would appreciate the representation, especially in a genre where we haven’t seen many non-binary protagonists before. Sure, there have been side non-binary characters in a few YA books, but there haven’t been many high-profile releases of the same nature as this book. In addition to reading about Ben’s experience as a non-binary teenager, we have another non-binary, pansexual character named Mariam who’s a successful YouTuber and tours, giving young queer people speeches about their experiences. It’s briefly discussed how they experience discrimination not only in real life but within the comment section of their videos (which are pretty much brutal for everyone, let alone someone who’s non-binary). Though Mariam was a distant, sporadic character, I loved their brief appearances and hearing about their romance with a girl. If I haven’t applauded Mason Deaver enough in this review, I want to praise them for the discussion about bisexuality and how, even if it’s an attraction to two genders, that doesn’t have to mean men and women. Ben’s trepidation about labelling themselves and discussing the gatekeeping in the community about identities was greatly appreciated by me, and hopefully others in the queer community as well.
I’m aware I’ve mainly discussed the diversity for most of this review, but I think that’s the most significant thing about this novel. It’s blurbed by Becky Albertalli with the quote “This book will save lives” and that’s it. In my opinion, this is a revolutionary book that should be praised and spread as much as The Hate U Give. We should all open our minds and read about this particular author’s experiences. I learnt things through these characters that I didn’t initially know about people who identify as non-binary and I acknowledged that they experience difficulties that I will never comprehend as a cis individual. For example, Ben prefers to be referred to as “sib” by their sister because gendered terms like “bro” and “dude” make them uncomfortable. Though, he also suggests that these are their experiences and other non-binary individuals might be comfortable with it. I loved that they were open about discussing things like this, while also acknowledging that it possibly isn’t the universal experience for others with the same gender identity.
I know most of the people reading this review just want to hear about the romance and don’t care about my rambly paragraphs discussing the wonderful diversity. There isn’t much romance and it isn’t fully established until the end of the novel. Nathan’s sexual preference isn’t explicitly stated, but the scene where they both realise their feelings is adorable. Nathan is all-around an adorable character, and I loved the joyfulness he was able to bring to the page. Nathan and Ben’s friends weren’t as developed as I would’ve liked, but I appreciated their appearances throughout the novel. Especially the typical teasing they did at the end when Ben and Nathan finally became a couple.
I loved Hannah as a character, even if I felt disconnected from her for most of the novel because there was an underlying mystery behind her leaving Ben when they were younger. She’s such a selfless character, who still blames herself for Ben’s circumstances even though it’s the fault of their parents. I loved how helpful she was throughout the novel and constantly informed herself of how to be welcoming and respectful towards Ben.
The main characters were well-fleshed out and I didn’t mind their popular culture references (if you’ve read my other reviews then you’re well aware that I despise them, especially when they’re constant). However, it was sweet between Ben and Nathan, especially a particular scene where one quotes Star Wars after an adorable not-date.
I Wish You All The Best is an indescribable novel. It’s a rare book, yet something the YA genre has desperately needed for the longest times. I’d definitely recommend to everyone since it’s a universal novel that we should all experience. However, if you haven’t been convinced, it’s very reminiscent of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera’s writing.