Themes: Courage, Fitting In, Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Publisher: Harper Teen
Released: May 26, 2020
I don’t think we ever pay so much attention to what others think of us than when we’re in high school, something Tobly McSmith explores brilliantly in his debut novel. Stay Gold follows protagonists Pony and Georgia as they attempt to fit in with their peers, albeit in utterly different ways. While Pony desires nothing more than to go unnoticed, Georgia prefers the refuge afforded by her coveted place in the popular crowd. Yet, both find themselves confronting the same dilemma—whether acceptance is worth the price of compromising an integral part of who they are.
I empathised with Pony from the outset. No one wants to be defined by a single trait, but when he came out at his previous school, the fact that he’s transgender was all his classmates cared about. So, as he begins his senior year at Hillcrest, Pony is determined to keep his gender identity a secret, to experience being an average teenage boy. Of course, this means concealing the truth from his new friends, not to mention living in constant fear of discovery, and when Pony falls for beautiful cheerleader Georgia, he has to ask himself what’s really important.
Georgia took a bit longer for me to warm to. During her time at Hillcrest, she has built a name for herself as a member of the cheerleading squad and one of the most sought-after girls in the school. Yet, beneath the polished exterior lies a frustrated journalist with a passion for writing articles that will change the perception of her readers. As a writer myself, I hated to see Georgia suppress her creativity for the sake of her reputation. Then, when she meets Pony, she finally has someone she can be entirely herself with and who appreciates her for who she is.
I love characters with flaws, and the protagonists in Stay Gold certainly have these. I completely understood Pony’s decision to hide his gender identity, but there were occasions when I felt he could have been more patient with Georgia and not put so much pressure on her. Equally, Georgia’s habit of making up elaborate stories did irritate me sometimes, and she was far more concerned with her social status than her own happiness. For all their faults, however, I found myself sympathising with both these two, and their obvious connection was incredibly touching to watch.
For a poignant and often funny debut that explores the need for acceptance, as well as portraying the transgender experience with honesty and sensitivity, Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith gets 9/10 rainbows.
About the Book
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?
Funny and poignant, clear-eyed and hopeful, Stay Gold is a story about finding love—and finding yourself.
About Tobly McSmith
Tobly McSmith is the co-creator/writer of eight somewhat successful musical parodies, including Friends! The Musical Parody and The Office! The Musical Parody. Tobly was born in Texas. He now lives in New York City with his two cats, Bam-Bam and Bananas McSmith. Tobly is proud to be transgender.