Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith
Genre/s: Contemporary, YA, LGBTQIA+, Romance
Publication Date: 26th May 2020
Published by: Harper Teen
Date Read: 19th May 2020
This book follows Pony through his senior year after changing schools. Pony just wants to fly under the radar, 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. Similarly cheerleader Georgia also wants to keep a low profile until after graduation. Avoiding any and all romance after promising to forgo dating her senior year. But then again things don't always go as planned.
I didn’t love the way this was written at the beginning, it was a little cheesy, but it did get better throughout and I did get used to it. The first-person addressing the reader style isn’t a favourite of mine. At times it made scenes and monologues feel info dumpy and as though I as the reader was getting educated and lectured to. It was almost like a guide for anyone who doesn’t know what it’s like to be a trans teen. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it felt stilted to read and made the book less enjoyable. However just because I didn't love the reading experience doesn't mean I didn't love the messages threaded into the narrative. There are a lot of important subjects brought up in this and that in its self makes this a very important book.
The plot for this wasn’t my favourite. It’s kind of predictable and I’ve read a few books very similar and watched a million films with similar aspects. But it was enjoyable and just because I’ve read this kind of story before doesn’t mean it’s a bad story, if you know what I mean. It’s a preference and having a more diverse version of this kind of story made it worth the read. It's important that trans teens get to see themselves represented in books and it's brilliant that we're getting more diverse young adult literature.
There are no where near enough books with transgender characters and I loved this book for the representation. But I can’t speak about how good the representation is of a trans character on a personal level. I haven’t seen enough own voices reviews yet so I’ll be looking out for them. But I can say there were instances where I felt as though the author was trying to be honest and heartfelt but it came across a little accusatory? As though certain decisions different people make regarding their safety and coming out are a bad thing. The main character going stealth and keeping the fact that they are trans from others they don’t know is written as though it’s a bad thing. I didn’t like this because everyone is different, not everyone will be in the same situation and not everything happens because of certain decisions people make. Sometimes people can be horrible and life can deal you a shitty hand. It’s okay to protect yourself in any way you want to. And the fact that the Pony’s best friend actually belittles him and makes him feel guilty for the choices he’s made was very uncomfortable to read. And it’s never addressed further than that, only in a way that portrays it as being wrong.
I did think that the author did a good job at showing that no one should blame themselves for other people’s actions, the process of getting there was just a little too messy and uncomfortable to read. As a whole it was much more intense and hard-hitting than I was expecting and had been led to believe by the synopsis. There are some light-hearted scenes but mostly it follows Pony experiencing and reflecting on transphobic and abusive encounters. And trying to navigate around these while worrying what his friends and others think of him. In addition to having suicidal thoughts, which were used as a segue to teach the reader about statistics. As a whole I think a lot of things lend this to being a more educational read for the non-trans than for trans teens looking to represented.
Overall I enjoyed this book and would recommend it, but make sure you’re in the right headspace for heavy topics. There is a very abusive scene that takes place in the school bathroom that was extremely graphic and hard to read, so please be wary reading this if you think that might be triggering for you.
Rating: 3.75 Stars
Thank you so much to Harper Collins for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
And thank you for reading!