By Martin Lederle-Ensign
Spencer Harris is that rarest of creatures: the nerdy jock. He’s a soccer star and Star Trek fan, a big brother, and the new kid at school. He’s also trans, but nobody at his new school knows that yet. Spencer and his parents are hoping it will stay that way after threats and bullying drove him from his last school. The real trick for Spencer, though, will be remaining “stealth” when he joins the soccer team and faces locker room challenges, a crush on a teammate, and some complications with his birth certificate. In The Passing Playbook (yes, it is a pun about soccer and gender), Isaac Fitzsimons brings warmth and love to a small town in Ohio.
The Passing Playbook, opens a new window succeeds on every level. On the one hand, it’s a pretty classic teen romantic dramedy with homecoming dance tears, breakups and makeups, and sneaky kisses under the bleachers. Spencer is a delightful protagonist amongst a school full of three-dimensional characters with a multitude of perspectives. Anyone looking for a lighthearted coming-of-age romance will not be disappointed.
On the other hand, The Passing Playbook is a radical, brave statement about belonging, speaking out, and the trans experience. Spencer faces real challenges and real dangers as a Black trans boy, in addition to the obstacles he faces as a teenager. He also uses his position of relative privilege as someone who “passes” to speak out for justice at his school and in his town. LGBTQ+ readers looking for reflections of themselves will find a mirror in Spencer. Readers looking to learn about experiences different from their own will find a role model, a sympathetic hero, and a defender with a mean left kick.