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Act Cool

Written by: Tobly McSmith
Narrated by: Shaan Dasani
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Publisher's Summary

Named a Rainbow Book List title

A trans teen walks the fine line between doing whatever it takes for his acting dream and staying true to himself in this moving, thought-provoking YA novel from the acclaimed author of Stay Gold.

Aspiring actor August Greene just landed a coveted spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts in New York. There’s only one problem: His conservative parents won’t accept that he’s transgender. And to stay with his aunt in the city, August must promise them he won’t transition.

August is convinced he can play the part his parents want while acting cool and confident in the company of his talented new friends.

But who is August when the lights go down? And where will he turn when the roles start hitting a little too close to home?

©2021 Tobly McSmith (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • LindsayPrower
  • 2022-05-04

Would recommend

This book was suggested to me by one of my closest friends with high praise and the book absolutely delivered. I enjoyed this book start to finish and really empathize with the August. His struggles as he tries to navigate his new life and grapple with his old are really compelling. I love many of the side characters and while I would have loved to see more about them I did love their interactions and the realness they added to the story.

Also really appreciated the resources and trigger warnings at the beginning. One of the most valuable things I've ever seen an author add.

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  • Jackson Theofore Keys
  • 2021-09-16

Superficial and dull

I really had hopes for this book. But, although the transgender representation was better than most, the book was a dud. August, a white, transgender boy runs away from his parents to his aunt and the bright lights of New York City. There his aunt, who is obviously well-to-do and connected, helps get August into the best drama high school in all off New York. There August proceeds to play versions of himself to match what he perceives the will make the people around him like him. Thus, we never get to really know August or his friends. But for August, everything is golden. He is cast into the prestigious school play and then to an off-Broadway play. And he does this in less than 6 months. So, except for his parents not accepting him as transgender, the whole world has bowed under his feet. So this book is really about a privileged, transgender youth who doesn't have to struggle much and gets all his dreams fulfilled by the age of 17 without much work. There was so little plot and so little character development and so much privilege that I was thoroughly bored. Nothing happened, August was a boring, egotistical lout, and all his friends were rich, entitled boy and girls who immediately love August. Happy trans endings are great; but trans people also deserve well written stories.

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  • Heather
  • 2022-12-16

Solid and Grounded Wish Fulfillment

I had a good time with this one, blitzed it in about 4 days. I think it'll hit different the closer you relate to August (religious parents gang rise up), but overall it was nice. It's the school you wanted to go to, with friends just like you that accept you instantly, and struggles that, while difficult, work out in the end as you succeed at the hobby you're passionate about. I had a lot of single "HA-!" moments at the audacity of some of these characters and their actions, but was also able to empathize quite strongly with the emotional moments, and felt like the book itself was calling me out in a couple of places.

There were a couple of parts that pulled me slightly out of the story (one of the background high schoolers was called out as being the Bachelorette, the classes felt like college classes), and I felt that the author was going for more of a college vibe while not wanting to sacrifice the hypothetical control August's parents would have over him as a minor. Overall though I enjoyed the plot and the characters. I felt that Ana was being set up as a slight commentary to people that get involved and more passionate about trans issues than trans people themselves, and was hoping for some resolution between her and August regarding the discomfort August felt at a couple of her comments, which either I did not see or I missed. I enjoyed August's growth overall, and it was fun following him through the story.

There were also a couple of parts where I feel like August was taking sidebars to specifically name drop and explain specific resources in the text itself, and some of the characters talked in a more manner of fact and knowledgeable way about certain issues and tips, it felt like they were dropping character to drop advice and adages I've heard a lot in the community. Not a bad thing though, just felt a bit odd.

There were also a couple of parts where the narrator seemed to not read ahead before delivering a line, a character would be said to be yelling a line and the narrator would deliver it in a singsong voice, or the text would say the character was upset but the narrator sounded a cheerful neutral, but it was only a couple of parts, on the whole Shaan did a wonderful job.

Overall I had a good time! Not the perfect book for me, but solid and worth the purchase and listen if you're looking for a pleasant, trans sensitive, and spunky New York romp where everything ends up ok.

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