Themes: Gender Identity,, Coming Out, Family
Audience: Young Adult
Released: May 14, 2019
OK, so I’m finding this review a bit of a bugger to write, to put it mildly. I’ve pondered long and hard, trying to put my thoughts and feelings about this book into some kind of order, so I hope they make sense. The fact is, I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver is a sweet debut. There’s nothing to dislike or to cause offense in it. The writing is sound and the characters relatable. Yet, given how excited I was by the premise, my chief emotion upon reaching the end was one of disappointment.
The one thing that sets this novel apart is its authentic portrayal of the non-binary experience. Since the author themselves identifies as non-binary, it came as no surprise to me that they were able to bring across the day-to-day struggles with sensitivity and in vivid detail. Ben is an immensely sympathetic protagonist, gentle and funny and riddled with anxiety. They have a lot to deal with during the course of the narrative, from coming out to being rejected by their parents, and their journey was lovely to watch.
Two characters in particular stood out for me. The first was Ben’s older sister Hannah, who they haven’t seen for ten years. She may have made mistakes in the past, but she has a big heart and takes Ben in without question when they call out of the blue. Then there’s Nathan, Ben’s closest friend and love interest. From the moment he is introduced to the story, his open friendliness and enthusiasm for life leapt off the page at me, and he fast became my favourite of this small cast.
So, there were undoubtedly aspects to this novel I appreciated. It’s a heartwarming story full of mostly likeable characters and with a genuine voice. Yet, for all its good points, there was nothing to really keep me turning the pages. The relationship between Ben and Nathan, though touching, lacked that powerful chemistry which would normally have me frantically reading on to discover whether they get their happy ending, while the plot itself fell flat and failed to wholly engage my attention.
For a hopeful debut featuring some believable characters and which portrays what it’s like to be non-binary with real authenticity, I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver gets 6/10 rainbows.
About the Book
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.
About Mason Deaver
Mason Deaver is a non-binary author and librarian in a small town in North Carolina where the word ‘y’all’ is used in abundance.
When they aren’t writing or working, they’re typically found in their kitchen baking something that’s bad for them, or out in their garden complaining about the toad that likes to dig holes around their hydrangeas.