Act Cool

- Tobly McSmith

Goodreads Book Blurb:

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?


My Review:

meh, nothing special:

I like the premise of Act Cool, and the transgender representation is important, but, unfortunately, the shallow outweighs the truly significant.

The parts that are done well:
-small-town uber-religious parents
-the threat and fear of conversion therapy
-gender dysphoria
-the sense of hopelessness
-suicidal ideation

Most of the time, these topics aren’t addressed head-on, and it feels like they’re brushed off as unimportant. Thankfully, once they are tackled, it’s with honesty and realism and starts many necessary conversations.

Unfortunately, Act Cool‘s setting works against all of the good it is trying to do. Everything and everyone is fake, and nothing feels genuine. August and these students are more worried about likes and followers, making it challenging to tell an authentic story.

I can appreciate that August would find it difficult to let go and be himself after feeling like he has been playing a role his whole life. But instead of coming off as insecure or uncertain, he’s so damn cocky. He’s so keen to become an actor, wants to go to this amazing school, but then immediately refuses to actually learn anything. Seriously, the ‘August method’? He has these incredible teachers trying to help him, but assumes he knows better. These conflicting actions and emotions go beyond teenage hubris, sapping the enjoyment out of the story.

I think this read is worth it for the few important parts that are done well, but there is a lot of background noise to overlook.

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