As one of my most anticipated reads of 2019, this book certainly didn’t disappoint. This book is a triumph, and with such utterly beautiful passages it would be hard to not read this book and have your heart break and swell while reading.
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.
Right off the bat, this book punches you straight in the gut with feelings. The first chapter is agonising, truly agonising as Ben is about to come out to their parents as non-binary. They’re hoping that their parents will be accepting, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. What follows is the story of Ben trying to get their life back on track while trying (and failing) to not make friends. Ben moves in with their sister, joins a new school, and straight away meets Nathan, an excitable teenage boy who is eager to become Ben’s friend.
Out of all the characters, it’s really hard not to love Ben and Nathan. Ben is an artistic yet shy teenager, and really comes into their own when given free reign to paint to their hearts delight. The scenes with Ben and their therapist are some of the most important chapters of the books. Very often, therapists are painted as the ‘bad guy’ characters by either giving incorrect information or acting uncaring. Ben’s therapist is a wonderful character, and really helps Ben as they begin to understand more about how their mind works and the anxieties they face.
Ben’s character is written delicately and I am certain that this will give non-binary readers happiness in their hearts. Ben talks about misgendering, and how it makes them feel, and also touches on the subject of body dysmorphia. The supporting characters also touch upon these topics; there is a scene where Ben’s sister, Hannah, corrects someone for misgendering Ben which is so important, and also scenes where Hannah helps Ben with their dysmorphia as best she can, letting Ben be as free and as out as they want to be when staying with her. As the novel progresses, so does Ben’s confidence and happiness, and it’s great to see them find something that really gives them joy – that being friendship, comfort at being out, and Nathan.
Onto the subject of Nathan, he was a character I had high hopes for and he didn’t disappoint. As a black, bisexual character, I was so worried as to how the author would portray Nathan – far too often, there is a stigma within black communities about LGBT+ people which is incredibly saddening. I Wish You All The Best made me relieved. Nathan is proud and confident about his sexuality, and has a supportive family who he feels safe with. I’m thrilled that Nathan has been given a fantastic light for young black LGBT+ readers to see and relate to positively. Nathan is so supportive of Ben too, giving more strength to an understanding and accepting black character of gender identities.
I Wish You All The Best is definitely a powerful and likeable book. The characters are all likeable and voiced appropriately as teenagers with worries, doubts, anxieties and first experiences. There is never a moment where you question why a character is doing something, as everything is so appropriately fitting for each situation. It’s well written too, and I found myself flying through it only to stop and savour some of the passages and chapters.
This book was brilliant, and I feel that it will end up being a rather helpful tool for teens and young adults in similar situations; it will definitely be reassuring to read a book with a character POV that they can relate to, but also something to help them understand and realise that they are not alone and can do great things. Mason Deaver has written one of the most open, educational and delicately beautiful debut books that I have read in a long time. They are clearly a genuine watchable talent in the world of books right now, and I long to read more penned by them in the near future.
Final verdict: A timely and emotional debut that will resonate, support and ultimately help its most important audience: non-binary teenagers. 5/5