Reviews

Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith

*Spoiler free*

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Thank you to HarperTeen and Edelweiss for the e-ARC!

Pony just wants to fly under the radar during senior year. Tired from all the attention he got at his old school after coming out as transgender, he’s looking for a fresh start at Hillcrest High. But it’s hard to live your best life when the threat of exposure lurks down every hallway and in every bathroom. Georgia is beginning to think there’s more to life than cheerleading. She plans on keeping a low profile until graduation…which is why she promised herself that dating was officially a no-go this year. Then, on the very first day of school, the new guy and the cheerleader lock eyes. How is Pony supposed to stay stealth when he wants to get close to a girl like Georgia? How is Georgia supposed to keep her promise when sparks start flying with a boy like Pony?

 

This was a book with a trans main character, who is going to a new school and wants to keep his identity under wraps. He also develops a crush on a cheerleader and she feels the same connection he does. I practically pounced on this book when I heard about it. Honestly, I heard it had a trans main character and that’s all I needed to want to read it, everything else was just a major bonus. Trigger warnings: transphobia, homophobia, transphobic attack, suicidal ideation, implied parental abuse

I hate saying that I didn’t like books, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of this one. It wasn’t inherently bad and I don’t want to turn anybody off from reading it. It just wasn’t up my alley.

There were multiple things that made me uncomfortable. Pony’s deadname is mentioned multiple times. Georgia was kind of a jerk about Pony being trans (though she did come around). Pony becomes friends with two guy guys who are sort of just gross. There were way too many “your mom” jokes and other things along those lines. Pony likes them because he feels like one of the guys, which I can appreciate! Though, I think there were better ways for him to get that feeling then to hang out with two guys who say inappropriate things all the time.

Pony’s friend cuts off contact from him when he won’t be out and proud at his new school. That was the biggest thing for me. There was this whole thing about how Pony had to be out and proud because there needs to be more visibility for trans people. Sure, I get visibility, but I don’t agree with forcing people to out themselves when they don’t feel comfortable. Sometimes it’s not safe for them, but that doesn’t make them any less trans or any less queer. It really rubbed me the wrong way when his friend decided to cut him off because he didn’t agree with Pony hiding his identity. Someone also made a big speech about how queer people need to be more visible and how allies need to be there for them. Again, for me, I think queer people should exist how they feel comfortable and safe existing. Sometimes that’s quietly and sometimes that’s loudly, but neither of them is wrong.

Another thing I didn’t love (but not something that made me uncomfortable!) was a quick switch in emotional thinking. A character is at the lowest of the lows and then there’s this sudden spark at they’re out of it. I sort of get the inciting incident, but their feelings felt a bit more serious than something they could spark out of.

Alright, moving onto the things I did like! I really liked Pony’s character. He was such a sweet dude and I really liked reading his POV. He’s a bit awkward and fully adorable. And I did really love reading about another trans main character. I think that’s something that will always be special for me. I loved reading about his journey, his feelings, and how he thinks. He struggles, since people in his life aren’t fully accepting, but he also has people in his life who love him for who he is. I liked reading about his highs and lows and how he handled everything that was thrown at him.

I wasn’t sure about Georgia for a bit, though I think I liked her. But in a more “I can appreciate her character from afar, though I don’t fully relate to her” kind of way. She was an alright character and I did like her in the end. She’s funny, bright, and crafts ridiculous stories that I thought were brilliant.

Georgia and Pony are what saved this book for me. They were great characters and they made me interested to keep reading, even when there were things I didn’t like.

I know it sounds like I hated this book, but please don’t take this as me telling you not to read it. I’m sure there will be people who love it and I’m sure this book will mean everything to some people. There were just some things that rubbed me the wrong way. There also wasn’t quite enough things I loved to overshadow them. It was a solid book, it just wasn’t for me.

Stay Gold comes out May 26, 2020! You can add it on Goodreads and pre-order a copy in the meantime!

Thank you for reading!

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