Contemporary Young Adult

The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons Review

Get ready to add a book to your wishlists because this YA coming-of-age (and queer romance) about a transgender teen who joins his school’s boys’ soccer team ticks so many boxes, I need more boxes. 

Spencer Harris is the new kid at a liberal private high school. He is also transgender, which he wants to keep under wraps for a while because he received literal death threats after transitioning at his old school. Spencer joins the Gay-Straight Alliance (without coming out), where he meets Riley (a nonbinary teen). And, of course, he joins the boys’ soccer team. Although he does so against his parents’ wishes, who preferred he joined a co-ed league, and thus they cannot know.

Spencer doesn’t enjoy lying to his parents, but among his team members, he’s experiencing something that’s been in rare supply from his peers: acceptance and support. Because while his mom and dad support his transition and absolutely love Spencer (family dynamics are good and heartwarming, the mom is so fierce), there are just things they don’t get, like this not belonging on a co-ed team or the way Spencer feels as though his dad might not view him fully as a son. Spencer’s team, of course, doesn’t know his secret, and when Spencer ends up benched on account of his birth certificate — which cannot be changed in his home state to reflect his true gender — Spencer’s world suddenly feels on the verge of collapse.

Whether or not you’re an athlete or soccer pro like Spencer, what beats at the core of Spencer’s heart is his passion for the sport. And watching passionate people do anything is always engaging. Oh, and for all you romance lovers, you’ll find a budding and sweet YA romance among these pages too. First love, I tell you. *swoons* As a protagonist, Spencer is funny, a loving brother to his autistic younger brother (Theo, who loves nature documentaries), and a realistic teenager. He’s a bit impulsive, fights with his parents. There are misunderstandings and miscommunication.

There is so much more to say about this book (like mentioning that Spencer’s love interest is an LGBTQ+ individual living with homophobic parents) because The Passing Playbook touches on so many important topics and because it’s own voices, the representation is accurate. It’s a must-read!

The Passing Playbook is Isaac Fitzsimons’ debut novel and a standout YA.

What’s more to love: biracial Black trans main character, LGBTQIA+ representation, autism representation, autistic side character, nonbinary side character, chance of tears.


Book: The Passing Playbook
Published: Penguin
Pages: 304
Publication Date: June 3rd, 2021
Age Range: 13 – 18
Stars: 5/5

Penguin Teen kindly sent me a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.

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