Have you ever felt uncomfortable in your own skin? Where your body is 1,000 miles away and you’re barely thinking about what to wear. And when you really sit down in front of the mirror, evaluating every facet, every angle of your self, you realize that maybe the jig-saw puzzle that is your identity doesn’t quite fit the way it’s supposed to.
I Wish You All the Best, by Mason Deaver is a story about a non-binary—a person who does not identify as male or female and whose pronouns can be them or they—teenager who comes out to their parents and the consequences of being honest with their family.
Mason Deaver is an artist. In bold broad strokes Deaver paints a story of Ben De Backer, who, like every teenager, wants to fit in and be accepted. And try as they might, while hoping for the best, Ben finally comes out to their parents’ senior year over winter break. Ben wants to be honest with their parents, knowing it’s the right thing to do so they (Ben) can stop living a life they don’t feel comfortable with. But the outcome of Ben’s honesty is a harsher reality to the one he originally imagined in their head.
In those first opening chapters we observe the traumatic upheaval of Ben’s life: rejected because of their parents’ present notions (or lack thereof) on the LGBTQIAP+ and non-binary identity. From Ben’s parents standpoint, their prejudices overrides any emotion related to empathy, compassion and understanding of their child. Their final answer is to kick their child out of their home and move on with their life as if nothing were out of the ordinary.
It’s hard enough to be accepted by your peers as an eighteen-year-old, where it’s next to impossible not to be viewed by everyone in high school at a microscopic level, but to be so utterly denied your sense of self and safety of a home is both heartbreaking and upsetting. After months of agonizing over how to tell their parents of their identity and sexual preference, Ben finds themselves with nothing more than the clothes on their back, their socks and a collect call to their older sister, whom they haven’t seen in years.
Deaver vividly captivates (in a painful, yet meaningful way) the experience of a teenager in crisis. We ride in tandem with Ben’s emotional and mental state from the very beginning. We feel Ben’s suffocating panic that cements them in place, unable to think clearly or breathe; the all-consuming surge of anxiety that leaches away all other feelings. The sleepless nights, living in this numb and unsatisfying existence because of the choke hold fear of not knowing if Ben will lose even more than they already have.
In those darker moments of the novel, where the colors are shades of dejection, betrayal, and self-loathing we look to the brightest, warmest, and tallest someone in the room; someone who will make all the difference for Ben (and us too). Enter Nathan Allan (swoon). He is a character you can’t help but love. His big heart, smile, and enthusiasm are infectious. He’s someone you want around when your world shatters into a million tiny fractured pieces or in the quiet morning moments before school, because he just makes everything better. Nathan Allan should be everyone’s personal hero.
I Wish You All the Best is a unique story that sparks the flame of hope we so desperately need. Throughout the novel Deaver helps us appreciate the meaning of lasting friendships, the joys and happiness from choosing to make your own family, the fulfilling state of mind when being understood and accepted by those who truly love us, and the motivational drive to help and support others in the LGBTQIAP+ community. I’m so very glad I read this book.
Happy Reading ̴ Cece
RATING: – Satisfyingly Inked
Publication Date: May, 2019
Audience: Young Adult; ages 14 and up
Jacket Art: Sarah Maxwell
Jacket Design: Nina Goffi & Stephanie Yang
Learn more about the LGBTQIA+ Community and Gender Identity at the following websites:
Wisconsin-Madison, Gender and Sexuality Center
The Trevor Project
American Psychological Association
Society for the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity