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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mason Deaver's I Wish You All the Best is about a nonbinary teen named Ben who gets kicked out of their home after coming out to their parents. With no other options, Ben moves in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband Thomas, and must adjust to life in a new place while navigating the challenges of family trauma and relationships, first love, and their own identity. Characters frequently engage with the topics of gender and sexuality from many different perspectives and experiences, providing lessons about identity and the diversity of the LGBTQ community. Issues related to mental health such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks feature prominently, with an important storyline involving the main character seeing a psychiatrist. Romance and love are a big part of the story, helping the characters learn about trust and communication, but there's only one brief kissing scene. Teens drink alcohol at a party, and one character experiences a panic attack after being pressured to take a shot of hard liquor. Swearing is infrequent but includes "hell," "s--t," "f--k," and more. There are themes of family, acceptance, and perseverance throughout.
What's the story?
I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST begins on New Year's Eve, when high school senior Ben DeBacker decides to finally come out to their parents as nonbinary, identifying with a gender that's neither entirely male or entirely female. Ben's life changes overnight -- they are rejected by their parents, thrown out of the house, and forced to move in with their older sister, Hannah, whom Ben hasn't spoken to in 10 years. Hannah and her husband, Thomas, are accepting and supportive as possible, helping Ben find new clothes, a therapist, and getting them enrolled at the local high school, where Thomas is a chemistry teacher. Fearing even more rejection from peers at their new school, Ben decides to stay closeted to everyone but Hannah, Thomas, and Dr. Taylor, Ben's psychiatrist. This decision becomes complicated when Ben strikes up a friendship with Nathan Allen, a sweet, popular boy who helps Ben ease into their new environment and break out of their comfort zone. But as the connection between the two deepens, it becomes harder and harder for Ben to keep hiding their true self.
Is it any good?
True to its optimistic title, Mason Deaver's first novel is a deeply heartfelt tribute to the growing pains of first love and self-acceptance that people of all genders can find hope in. I Wish You All the Best offers a refreshing, nuanced coming-out narrative that celebrates the small victories in what is often a scary, stressful, and traumatic experience for young LGBTQ people. Deaver, who also identifies as non-binary, breaks the convention of tragic outcomes for queer youth by filling the story with meaningful and positive moments that show the importance of authenticity and perseverance in the face of life's most daunting obstacles. At times, however, the story suffers from inconsistent narration and lack of direction that can make these lessons feel out of place. And while it's uplifting to watch Ben open up to the possibility of romance, it distracts from the more compelling storyline that follows Ben and Hannah as they try to rebuild their sibling relationship and heal from the harm caused by their parents. That said, I Wish You All the Best is a charming and admirable exploration of gender and sexuality in the familiar setup of a sweet coming-of-age romance, and will surely appeal to teens looking for more genuine, diverse love stories.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about non-binary characters, like Ben in I Wish You All the Best. Have you ever read a story with a nonbinary narrator before? What about Ben's experiences did you find relatable? Did this book change the way you think about gender? If so, in what ways?
How does this book portray mental illness? How did Ben's psychiatrist help them work through their problems? Do you think Ben deals with anxiety and depression in a realistic way?
What messages does I Wish You All the Best send about family relationships? Why do you think Ben's parents reacted the way they did? How does Ben and Hannah's relationship change over the course of the book?
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