Monday, October 18, 2021

Book Review: "Act Cool" by Tobly McSmith

If you want people to like you for who you are, it helps if you show them who you really are. That's the message behind Tobly McSmith's newest YA book, Act Cool.

August dreams of being an actor. But his evangelical parents don’t approve of his being transgender—they just think their daughter is confused—so he goes to stay with his aunt in New York, and he’s able to get an audition for the prestigious School of the Performing Arts.

His mother agrees to let him stay there as long as he promises not to continue transitioning and act like their daughter. August is convinced that he’s a good enough actor to be the person he wants to be in school and with his new friends, and still play the role his parents want him to.

Of course, when you’re playing different roles for different people, it’s hard to figure out who you really are. And the role he chooses to audition for in the school musical further blurs the lines. But who is the real August? What does he want?

This is a great story about finding yourself and your chosen family, as well as a relevant conversation about representation in acting, the question of whether any actor should be able to play any role or if specific roles should only go to actors who live that role in real life—if a trans actor should only play a trans role.

I found Act Cool fun, sweet, poignant, and very thought-provoking, as well as a little sad. I’ve now enjoyed both of Tobly McSmith’s books, including his first, Stay Gold.

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