This book is everything I didn’t know I needed. I didn’t know that high school debate teams could be this interesting (I’ll admit, I was that kid in high school who thought, “Why would you waste time arguing about random stuff?”). I didn’t know that I could fall so deeply in love with two characters in a book. Most importantly, I did not have any idea of the struggles facing our trans teens today.
As an educator working with at-risk teens in a small, middle-of-nowhere town, I have interacted with a few of the trans teens in our high school. I was there when the discussions about bathrooms began. I was proud of our school district when the decision was made to allow students to use the bathroom of their choice. But I really did not truly understand how much these young people still struggle.
Peyton Thomas takes us on a beautiful journey throughout this book. The friendship between Finch and Jonah as debate team partners is effortless and genuine. Seeing that friendship evolve over the course of the book, as Finch examines his sexual orientation and Jonah begins to reevaluate his own romantic relationship with Bailey, is captivating and leaves the reader fully invested in these characters.
The supporting cast is fully-developed and adds so much to Finch and Jonah’s story. Ruby, Finch’s sassy little sister, is loveable and totally believable as a younger sibling dreading her older brother’s flight from the nest and the change in their relationship that will bring. Finch’s parents are loving and supportive of Finch, which is so good to see when I know that far too many trans teens do not have that kind of parental support. The other debate team friends (and foes) are engaging and add much to the story, especially Adwoa, the team’s advisor and source of love and so much wisdom.
One thing I especially love in this book is the fact that these teens are allowed to be flawed. They make mistakes and have to deal with them. In my job I deal with teens every day, and I can say that all these characters come through as authentic.
I encourage everyone to read this exceptional story (and will be recommending it to everyone who will listen), and have already pre-ordered a physical copy of the book because I know that it will be a frequent re-read for me in the future. I give Both Sides Now a very enthusiastic five stars.
Thank you to Penguin Teen and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book for review.