Reviews

Review: I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

41473872SYNOPSIS:

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.


RATING: ☆★☆

The beginning of I Wish You All the Best jarred me. It kicked up a riot of emotions; each word a lash, wrenching out your breath and dealing blows to your insides. Benjamin De Backer, buoyant with hopes of swift acceptance, is planning on coming out as non-binary to their parents. The reader is spared the immediate fallout—but the imagination conjures up enough horrors. What we see is Benjamin’s life as if held aloft by their own hand, and in an instant, it spun away from them. Benjamin, barefoot, feeling like a stray helium balloon drifting on the currents as they walked to a payphone to call an estranged sister they haven’t seen, or spoken to, in a decade.

Hope roots faintly in Benjamin’s heart when their sister and her husband welcome them to their home. But every hour some new bruise was upon Benjamin, some new ache, always weary, always burdened. The ground beneath them has never felt more precarious, and their life has become a cold sinking tangle of fear and anger and doubt. Their parents’ rejection scratched at them, and they were wearying under the burden of constantly coming out to everyone, and then dreading their reaction. Benjamin seemed to be in a lull, a strange pocket of emptiness into which no one came, and they were never threatened. But with the support of their best friend, who is a non-binary Muslim immigrant, and a burgeoning friendship with their classmate Nathan who was like cheer in a bottle, Benjamin feels the shiver of a new hope forming, a new space opening up wide enough for them to stand in. Maybe some renewed vestige of life was in them yet—the last tatters of Benjamin’s hopes blooming afresh.

Mason Deaver, the debut author of this book, is nonbinary themself and Benjamin’s story had come crawling out of their own heart. The author’s voice is simultaneously tender and reverent—but it also falls like an axe blade, sharp and severing. The novel’s cold touch is like fingertips slipping beneath your clothes and wrapping around your heart, making turmoil bubble up through the tightness in your chest before it catches you up in a soft, opened warmth. I do not doubt that this story is going to be cathartic for a lot of readers—and I’m glad it exists.

With that being said, my primary critique of Deaver’s single-minded coming-of-age novel is a longing for more—this unnameable thing that slips from my brain like sand held in an open palm. The book’s heart and dazzle does not always help it overcome much of its dryness. I was often threatened by a sense of ennui as, for most of the novel, the plot just plods along, and it isn’t long before Benjamin’s voice grows distant, like far-off waves. Deaver builds believable secondary characters, but they beg for more page time. The development of familial attachments alongside romantic and platonic ones could have carried a lot more vivacity, but the author plays it close to the chest. I found myself many times wishing this scene or that conversation more fully played out, because instead of parlaying them, the author often only gives you just a glimpse, and then they’re off, running to the next thing. Again, I wanted more, but some moments never come to fruition.

That is not to say of course that there’s nothing lovely in I Wish You All the Best. The story, which is a gentle but unyielding reminder that the body’s need to speak its truth is primal and profound, and that compassion and love can overcome intolerance, warmed the cockles of my heart. Benjamin’s journey put so much hope in me and I’m glad I picked up this book. I hope many readers find their way to Deaver’s novel for it will doubtless change a lot of lives.

6 thoughts on “Review: I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

  1. I love this book more than I love myself. Although I did think some of the scenes concerning their anxiety could’ve been written better and there wasn’t enough Hannah time. There could’ve been more book, y’know?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Those were precisely my thoughts! It was a lovely debut, but more ink in the pen would have made it a brilliant one. This book will, nonetheless, be life-changing for a lot of readers and that makes my heart so happy!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I didn’t know this book has a non-binary MC and I can’t wait to read it. Thank you for making me aware of it. I loved your review but judging from what you wrote I’m sure this book is going to hit home and will be painful for me to read. So thanks for the heads-up! I’ll definitely read it and hope that I’ll like it (and the rep) too! XD

    Like

  3. Yes, I felt pretty much the same. I enjoyed the character of Ben and I thought the rep was done well but I was left longing for more. But I absolutely think this will resonate with many readers and I’m so glad I read it.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s