• Robert C. Kukla

A Young Adult Story That Is Ripped From The Headlines: Isaac Fitzsimons ‘The Passing Playbook’


Reading The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons reminded me of my appreciation for how far the queer young adult genre has come.


The Passing Playbook follows Spencer, a young trans teenage boy who has a love for soccer. At the start of the novel, we find him starting school at a brand new liberal private school due to an unfortunate incident at his last school. Because of that incident, his parents, especially his mother, are very protective over him and when Spencer mentions wanting to join the boys' soccer team, they refuse to allow it. Spencer joins behind his parents' back and quickly develops a crush on his teammate, Justice, -- the story goes from there.


I thought the romance that develops between Spencer and Justice was really well written. I feel like with many young adult romances, the relationships tend to feel rushed and insta-lovey, but that wasn’t the case with The Passing Playbook. The romance takes time and results in it feeling more realistic.


I also appreciated the added layer to the romance involving Spencer’s fear of revealing his gender identity to Justice. I felt like the way it was handled really made Spencer come across as a well rounded character.


I can’t speak on the authenticity of the trans representation, since I am cisgender, but I do feel that Isaac Fitzsimons does a great job with the trans representation in general throughout the book. The way he writes some of Spencer’s internal struggles felt real to me as a reader and made me really understand what some young trans teens go through on a daily basis.


One minor criticism I have with the novel is that the book description talks a lot about the laws in the Ohio city Spencer lives in affecting his chances of participating in his soccer matches. While the book does tackle the subject, I wish it had gone further and that the subject had been a bigger focus of the story. We really only get to experience the seriousness of the situation during the last bit of the book and made it felt a rushed and underdeveloped.


Overall though, we have come a long way from the cheesy, queer relationships written about by straight, cisgender, white women that never fully embodied the queer experience, and The Passing Playbook definitely delivers a ripped from the headlines story with a lot of heart, and a lot of love.


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