Book Title: I Wish You All The Best
Author: Mason Deaver
Edition: Physical Copy > Paperback
Length: 336 Pages
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Mental Health, LGBT, Young Adult/YA
CW/TW: Verbal Abuse, Transphobia, Homophobia, Anxiety, Depression, Detailed Scenes of Anxiety. Detailed Scenes of Depressive Episodes, Body Dysmorphia, Underage Drinking and Alcohol, Being Kicked Out of House, Therapy, Misgendering, Slut-Shaming, Physical Child Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Panic Attacks
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.
I only cried like 12 times, it’s fine.
I’ve read a few other LGBT books before, but this is the first time I read one about a non-binary character, and I learned a lot from reading this. Ben is a high school senior who has been struggling to find the right time to come out to their parents, the fear was making them sick with worry and now felt like the only moment left; they can’t bear to wait any longer. Eventually they do have a conversation with their parents, around New Year’s Eve, and it ends in them being kicked out of the house; no shoes and into the freezing thirty degrees night. Nowhere to go, they make their way to a pay phone and calls their sister, Hannah, whom they haven’t seen in a decade after she left the house immediately after graduation. Horrified and furious, at her parents, she takes Ben in to live with her and her husband, Thomas, where Ben begins their life again; new school, new clothes, new home, and new friends.
Simple, easy-to-read writing. Book gone in record time.
I inhaled this book in about a day and half. I think I could have finished it in a single sitting if I didn’t start so late at night on the first day. Wonderfully written with easy to understand prose, I was able to fly by the pages with not much problem. Having just finished a few fantasy books this year, you don’t know how much I’ve missed contemporary sentences that you don’t have to read three times to understand a scene or figure out the magic system. Just plain, to the point, passages. Along with a few text message exchanges and Facebook messages, this book makes for a nice epistolary novel as well, with its bit of mix media thrown in (and I always appreciate any novel with those!).
The book’s writing was fantastic, to the point where I could feel Ben’s emotions and feelings right through the pages. The fear of their first night out of the house, in the freezing cold with no shoes and only wet socks, sitting all alone in a pharmacy and waiting for Hannah. They have nothing on them besides their clothes and socks; no cell, no jacket, nothing. Alone and cold, fearful and so hurt by people they thought they could trust while waiting for a sister they haven’t seen in a literal decade, one whom they have to debate on whether to come out to, because this is probably their last chance. Who else is going to take them in if this too blows up? I was able to feel their every sadness, whenever they felt trapped, doubt, anger, cold, like a burden, angry, disappointed. That first panic attack was enough to steal your breath away as they hide in fear.
Friends that I would love to have around me.
The characters were wonderful and so colorful. I really enjoyed all of them, and there were plenty of characters. There’s Hannah and her husband, Thomas (who happens to be Ben’s chemistry teacher in their new school). There’s the other adults like Mrs. Liu, the art teacher, whom Ben becomes very close to and their therapist, Dr. Taylor, who helps Ben through their recent trauma. Of course, there’s Ben’s new friends, Sophie, Meleika, and the ever charming Nathan. Through the internet, they also have a friend named Mariam, a non-binary Muslim immigrant, a vlogger, and Ben’s mentor of sorts; They have been Ben’s biggest support in the past few years.
While I do enjoy the characters, I do feel like a few characters lacked a solid background, some just needing a little more screen time. We don’t know much about Sophie or Meleika. These are two people who become so important to Ben that the end of senior year becomes hard to imagine. Nathan is Ben’s love interest here and the person they hang with the most (how could you not hang with Nathan the sunflower-soul, golden retriever in a human body?) so we get to know more about him than many of the other characters and I feel like, screen time wise, even Mariam was more fleshed out than poor Sophie and Meleika. I did, however sparsely they were presented, felt myself attached to this small band of friends. Personality wise, I feel like they’re alright. I imagine loud, happy, and always inclusive of their quiet buddy, Ben, in their activities; friends that I would love to have around me.
It’s a lot to go through during your last half of your final year in high school…
Plot wise, I enjoyed it as well. Ben is struggling to understand, and put to words, not just the trauma of the night that they were kicked out, but their other emotions and feelings as well. They also struggle to see, initially refusing to see Dr. Taylor, because it would mean they would have to come out to another person when they aren’t ready yet. You have to remember, the first and last time they came out (other than to Mariam) ended disastrously! Through this book, Ben also learns to open up to others and makes friends by joining them at lunch, going to parties, texting people that isn’t just Mariam through the internet. Along with all this, they also have to come to terms with their feelings towards Hannah, one that is mostly grateful and loving but also betrayed and resentful of being abandoned by their sibling, leaving them to fend for themselves in a home with parents like theirs. All of this during his last few months of high school. It’s a lot to go through.
The romance and Ben’s crushing on Nathan was kind of cute. It’s a HEA book, and you kind of get the feeling just from reading the blurb. There’s plenty of powerful and heavy topics that this book tackles such as identity and orientation, body dysmorphia, the fear of coming out, making friends in a new place (especially so late into high school), being kicked out of the house, complicated family histories, child abuse, anxiety and depression, and much more. It’s heartfelt and the emotions just seep through the pages. There will be plenty of times you cry and then a few times you find yourself smiling for Ben (or because Nathan’s there, and he’s a good boy that makes everyone smile). The book also contrasts Ben’s god awful parents with some amazing adults (and friends!) that they can put their trust into, which is fantastic considering how much of that trust he’s lost in others since that awful night.
All in all
Overall, a lovely and cute read. I enjoyed the discussions and portrayals about mental health and mental illness. I thought the relationships in this book were cute, but also complex between certain characters, and the story was wonderful to read through, especially with Ben being surrounded by actual loving and accepting people. Plus, the cover is so cute (It may or may not have been the extra deciding factor that landed it in my basket)!