Review: The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons.


Love, Simon meets Friday Night Lights in this feelgood LGBTQ+ romance about a trans teen torn between standing up for his rights and staying stealth.

‘A sharply observant and vividly drawn debut. I loved every minute I spent in this story’ – Becky Albertalli

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.

At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing.

So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.


This is a great book for teens, looking at trans rights and homophobia, alongside romance and fitting in at a new school.

This was a very interesting read for me, in that Spencer has already transitioned and is sure of himself, other books I have read with trans characters have been focused on the transition part, so this was different in that respect. We still see, however, that even once transitioned and passing some of the problems that Spencer still faces. Including whether he should tell people at his new school that he is trans, the issues he has with getting changed in the boys changing rooms, homophobia from Justice's family and church, and whether he is allowed to play on the boy's football (soccer) team when his birth certificate still labels him as female. 

I loved that his parents were supportive, if a little over-protective. Spencer's interactions with his little brother (who has autism) are lovely and genuine, as well as with Riley when he helps them and backs them up, it shows that Spencer is a very caring person. His relationship with Justice is complex as Justice comes from a very religious family that are are clearly homophobic. I loved how diverse all the characters are, and they are portrayed well, none of them feel like they have been included for tokenism, it is just the real world and I love it! 

The plot moves at a good pace, I read the majority of the book in one day as I wanted to keep reading. 

The Passing Playbook is a great read that looks at some very important and prevalent topics which are portrayed in a way that is both accessible and enjoyable for teen readers.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Children's for the e-arc to review.

Author Bio

Isaac Fitzsimons is the author of The Passing Playbook (Dial BFYR/PRH, 2021). He writes Young Adult fiction so that every reader can see themselves reflected in literature. A lifetime dabbler in the arts, he currently lives outside Washington, DC, and does research for an arts advocacy nonprofit in the city.

Photo Credit: Raquel Toledo

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Novels The Passing Playbook (2021)

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