Rummanah Aasi
 Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother, and a David Beckham in training. He's also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of isolation and bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio. At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy's soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans--he's passing. So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer's coach to bench him after he discovers the 'F' on Spencer's birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even though it would mean coming out to everyone--including the guy he's falling for.

Review: The Passing Playbook is a super sweet and uplifting read. Review journals have classified the book as a romance, but I think it belongs to realistic/contemporary fiction. The romance, while present, is a subplot to the story and more of a budding relationship type. Readers looking strictly for a romance would be disappointed. 
   We follow Spencer, a trans biracial (his father is Black and his mother is white) teen who is starting at his new school. Spencer wants to blend in and keep his identity private until he feels safe to disclose it. It is referred that he was horribly bullied when he came out as trans at his old school. When he is given the opportunity to join the boys soccer team, Spencer can’t resist the challenge. He was a star player at his old school and misses the game plus the cute vice captain says he doesn’t think Spencer has what it takes. Soccer means everything to Spencer, and he refuses to give up his shot to play, even if he has to keep it a secret from his overprotective parents. There are some plot points that you need to suspend your disbelief such as a coach allowing a player to play without getting parental permission and Spencer's ability to hide playing soccer. 
   Soccer is a large part of the book as Spencer begins to develop camaraderie with his teammates. There are plenty of scenes of the game, but since I know virtually nothing about soccer I can't comment on the sports accuracy. I did, however, love the idea that there are other queer characters such as the team captain who is bi and who also play soccer and it is not a big deal. When Spencer's true identity is revealed and he is disqualified by the soccer league but he is supported by his team, his coach, and his family.
  Spencer is given fully agency to voice his feelings, which he communicates to his parents. I think it is important to note that Spencer's parents are supportive, but they make mistakes. It is wonderful that Spencer's mother is actively in a support group for transgender and non-binary youths. This is a complete contrast to Justice's family who comes from an ultra-conservative Christian family and he can not disclose that he is gay in fear of his family's reaction.
 The romance between Spencer and Justice is sweet and wholesome. I actually wished their romance played a bigger part of the story, but it adds a nice layer of nuance to the coming-out narrative. There is also discussion of Spencer’s connection to his younger brother, Theo, who is autistic, is also woven into the story. The plot moves very quickly as I finished it in two days. Overall, I really enjoyed it and I look forward to reading whatever Fitzsimons writes next. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, a scene of a homophobic conservative talk show on a radio, and homophobic imagery in a haunted house. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Simon vs. the Homosapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee
1 Response
  1. I like the sounds of this one. I like that he finds his voice and advocates for himself and that his parents are supportive, but make mistakes, which is realistic.

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