Book review: non-binary teen’s triumphs in “I Wish You All The Best”



Cover and quote from “I Wish You All The Best” named one of the best books of 2019 by Buzzfeed

by Rowan Grob, Reporter

“But the more I stare at my body, the more I hate it. It’s the same feeling I had  before I realized I’m non-binary. Things just aren’t where they’re supposed to be, and I feel like I’m larger and smaller than myself at the same time. Like nothing adds up.” Says Ben De Backer, the main character of the young adult novel I Wish You All The Best.

Ben De Backer is a non-binary teen living in North Carolina. When they come out to their parents, things don’t go as planned. This story follows Ben as they go through the trials and tribulations of being a non-binary teen with unaccepting parents. 

Ben’s parents, like many others, aren’t always the most understanding when it comes to having LGBTQ+ children or family members. This is often because they don’t want those people to stray away from their perfect view of them. This book handles many heavy topics related to unaccepting parents including religion. 

While Ben’s parent’s negative behaviour is the reality for many, not all parents are like Ben’s. Many seem to be trying their best to understand younger generations and the LGBTQ+ community. 

However, this may not be the case. According to USA Today, the number of Americans from 18-34 who are comfortable with interacting with LGBTQ+ individuals went down from 53% in 2017 to 45% in 2018. This is the only group to show a decline according to the Accelerating Acceptance report. This is also down from 63% in 2016. 

Many, including myself, find this very disappointing. Fifty years after Stonewall and the LGBTQ+ community is still not fully accepted. This ties back to the story where Ben’s parents are unaccepting of them and their gender and sexuality. 

That’s what’s right in the novel.  Ben has a number of supporters:  their sister, her teacher husband, the principal, friends, a therapist and a long-distance social media influencer.

A strong theme in this story is perseverance. No matter what happens, Ben continues to fight for what they want and what’s best for them. This can inspire teens to continue their fight with mental health and lack of acceptance. 

This book is amazing. It captures the struggles with having to come out multiple times, fear of not being accepted, as well as dysphoria. 

Ben often deals with having to come out to people multiple times such as their sister, brother-in-law, therapist, and friends. Coming out constantly is a struggle. You have to correct people on your name and pronouns and sometimes even have to explain what being non-binary means. However, it’s all a step towards feeling more comfortable with yourself and others. 

Throughout the story, Ben struggles with thinking of coming out to their friend Nathan. While they know Nathan will most likely be accepting, they still have fears. I, as a non-binary person, have this exact same fear. Though many may think it’s irrational, coming out is a very scary moment even if you know you will be accepted. 

Dysphoria is a big part of being trans or non-bianry for many people. Dysphoria can take over your life and ruin your self image. While not being the main theme of the story, dysphoria is definitely included in this book. As someone who is affected by dysphoria, Ben’s explanations of it make me feel seen and like I’m not alone. 

In many parts of the book, Ben yearns for more feminine things and to be more androgoynous. Even though I feel more drawn to masculine things and oppose Ben in that way, I still understand how they feel. While not every non-binary person wants to be androgoynous, many do and Ben is a very good example of how some may feel about how they want to express their gender. 

This book even includes how some trans or non-binary people may feel they don’t live up to the standards put for trans and non-binary people. It’s definitely a struggle putting up with beauty standards, especially on top of dysphoria. Some may even feel that they aren’t trans or non-binary just because they “don’t look trans/non-binary.” 

“Such a contrast to the other non-binary people I’ve seen online. Their smooth, hairless, acne-less faces, their trimmed hair that always seems perfect. These things I could never be. Because no matter how hard I will it my body isn’t how I want to see myself,” Ben thinks. 

Friendship is very prominent in this story. Ben’s main support system is their friends. Nathan and Mariam are their main two friends but they also have Sophie and Melekia. Mariam is a social media influencer who lives in California and Nathan goes to Ben’s school and is in a few classes with them. 

Mariam and Ben often text and Nathan and Ben often hangout. Nathan comes along with Ben during a very important point in the book. Towards the end of the book, Mariam goes on a tour and comes to visit North Carolina and finally gets to meet Ben in real life.  

While there are many positive aspects of this book, there are also some unrealistic aspects that some may consider negative. When Ben is kicked out of their house, they’re only on the street for very little time before their sister picks them up. As well as that, their sister’s willingness to help and the amount of money she spends on Ben is very surprising. Ben is also enrolled in a new school in a day, which isn’t very realistic. 

The ending of this book is a huge contrast from the beginning and the events leading up to it make it a very interesting book. I truly couldn’t put it down. This is definitely a great book for LGBTQ+ teens and anyone looking to educate themselves a little more. 

This book grabs your attention and doesn’t let it go. With all the twists and turns, I Wish You All The Best is definitely a great read.