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Act Cool

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A trans teen walks the fine line between doing whatever it takes for his acting dream and staying true to himself in this moving, thought-provoking YA novel from the acclaimed author of Stay Gold. Aspiring actor August Greene just landed a coveted spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts in New York. There’s only one problem: His conservative parents won’t accept t A trans teen walks the fine line between doing whatever it takes for his acting dream and staying true to himself in this moving, thought-provoking YA novel from the acclaimed author of Stay Gold. Aspiring actor August Greene just landed a coveted spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts in New York. There’s only one problem: His conservative parents won’t accept that he’s transgender. And to stay with his aunt in the city, August must promise them he won’t transition. August is convinced he can play the part his parents want while acting cool and confident in the company of his talented new friends. But who is August when the lights go down? And where will he turn when the roles start hitting a little too close to home?


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A trans teen walks the fine line between doing whatever it takes for his acting dream and staying true to himself in this moving, thought-provoking YA novel from the acclaimed author of Stay Gold. Aspiring actor August Greene just landed a coveted spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts in New York. There’s only one problem: His conservative parents won’t accept t A trans teen walks the fine line between doing whatever it takes for his acting dream and staying true to himself in this moving, thought-provoking YA novel from the acclaimed author of Stay Gold. Aspiring actor August Greene just landed a coveted spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts in New York. There’s only one problem: His conservative parents won’t accept that he’s transgender. And to stay with his aunt in the city, August must promise them he won’t transition. August is convinced he can play the part his parents want while acting cool and confident in the company of his talented new friends. But who is August when the lights go down? And where will he turn when the roles start hitting a little too close to home?

30 review for Act Cool

  1. 5 out of 5

    h o l l i s

    I said this in another queer YA contemporary review recently that it's important for queer and trans characters to have messy love lives, or messy stories, or just be messy, because so many of those stories already exist for straight and cis-gendered content. However, queer or not, messy doesn't always make it easy to love. Much of the narrative in ACT COOL is about getting transpeople other narratives that aren't necessarily defined by their being transgender, telling different and happier storie I said this in another queer YA contemporary review recently that it's important for queer and trans characters to have messy love lives, or messy stories, or just be messy, because so many of those stories already exist for straight and cis-gendered content. However, queer or not, messy doesn't always make it easy to love. Much of the narrative in ACT COOL is about getting transpeople other narratives that aren't necessarily defined by their being transgender, telling different and happier stories, in addition to representation in general. And then there's also the emphasis on found family and finding those who will accept you no matter what. There's a lot of great in here. I just had to sift through a lot of less great to appreciate it. That said, if you're looking for a diverse YA contemporary, with drama and romance that does get a wee bit messy and soap opera-y, but with some heavier themes to keep it from being too frothy, you could definitely do worse than picking this one up. But if you hate theatre or Broadway.. maybe avoid. 2.5 stars Full review to come. ** I received an unsolicited ARC from the publisher (thank you!) and this in no way influenced my review. **

  2. 5 out of 5

    rachel ☾

    A transgender teen is accepted into a prestigious performing arts high school in New York, but when he is cast in a role that hits too close to home—the part of a trans teen whose family is intent on conversion therapy—he must learn how to be true to himself, apart from any role. i'm so happy to see more trans & nonbinary stories coming out next year 💛😊 Blog • Trigger Warning Database • Twitter • Instagram A transgender teen is accepted into a prestigious performing arts high school in New York, but when he is cast in a role that hits too close to home—the part of a trans teen whose family is intent on conversion therapy—he must learn how to be true to himself, apart from any role. i'm so happy to see more trans & nonbinary stories coming out next year 💛😊 Blog • Trigger Warning Database • Twitter • Instagram

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fanna

    May 22, 2020: This book has just been announced and I absolutely can't wait for next year to come faster because a transgender rep is being promised AHH. May 22, 2020: This book has just been announced and I absolutely can't wait for next year to come faster because a transgender rep is being promised AHH.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Raven

    Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending me an eARC of this book and exchange for an honest review. First off I would like to say that just like Tobly McSmith’s debut book Stay Gold, this book is a very important story and needs to be on the shelves for many young teens. It tells a story and gives a voice that is not always heard in YA books. That being said, I found this book tried to do a little too much in a short period of time. This book follows August as he has run away from home, and Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending me an eARC of this book and exchange for an honest review. First off I would like to say that just like Tobly McSmith’s debut book Stay Gold, this book is a very important story and needs to be on the shelves for many young teens. It tells a story and gives a voice that is not always heard in YA books. That being said, I found this book tried to do a little too much in a short period of time. This book follows August as he has run away from home, and is now living in New York with his aunt. He ran away from home because he realize that his parents would not recognize him as transgender and needed to start a life with you. Luckily, with his aunts connections he gets an audition to one of the most prestigious arts school across the country and nailed it. Now he has a new identity, a new school, a new city and this is very overwhelming and instead of trying to find himself he decides to act with every interaction he has. He decides to play a part before entering a class or a party or conversing with another character. I really like this element in the story. I felt like it is something that many people can relate to. No matter who we are or how confident we are in ourselves, all of us have felt like we had to act a certain way around people and situation. I really enjoy watching theatre but I’m not into any of the production of theater. Therefore, a lot of the theatre scenes I didn’t find very interesting. I was really excited when the school started to put on their play because it is a play that I thoroughly enjoy. So I was sad when I didn’t get a lot of details of scenes when the play was being produced. The character development that August goes through is very rich, but I feel like a lot of the plot of the story was not very realistic. Nonetheless I still enjoyed the story I think it’s a very important voice for people to read. If you’re looking for a contemporary with some heavy topics or just want to learn more about social issues surrounding transgendered people that I think this is a good book for you.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stacey-Lea

    Act Cool is definitely an important story to have out there for young teens, especially trans teens. Being able to see themselves on page and to have these discussions are great and amazing. The setting also feels just so right. Now, I'm only really going to discuss the one part that I have direct experience with and that is the theatre/acting world. I felt like I was revisiting Fame. This is a very over dramatised version of what it is like to be in a performing arts school. It was also hard to Act Cool is definitely an important story to have out there for young teens, especially trans teens. Being able to see themselves on page and to have these discussions are great and amazing. The setting also feels just so right. Now, I'm only really going to discuss the one part that I have direct experience with and that is the theatre/acting world. I felt like I was revisiting Fame. This is a very over dramatised version of what it is like to be in a performing arts school. It was also hard to not roll my eyes at August when he's been accepted into this prestigious NYC arts school and doesn't take it seriously. To go into classes and not take notes and to not even try different acting techniques feels like an insult. Sure, not all acting techniques work for everybody, but you need to try them and understand that your teacher is there to teach you because surprise, you don't know everything. Parts that I did love - the discussion of identity (though I could have done without August's inner monologue of "I'm going to be the cool guy" or "I'm going to be the funny guy") and the focus of family, specifically found family, because it is such an important moment when you realise you can choose who you surround yourself with and what family can really mean. The moments with August's parents really broke my heart and knowing that this is a reality for many trans people is all the more saddening. Overall, if you go into this expecting more of a soap drama version of this story then you'll be so fine and probably love it. I was expecting something a little more grounded personally.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Monte Price

    My full thoughts can be found in this reading vlog. I was very nervous to pick this up, as Stay Gold was one of the my favorite reads from last year and I wasn't sure if my anticipation for this could live up to the hype I had created for myself. I'm glad to say that this did. It's a pretty different book from McSmith's debut. Here we follow August as he navigates the School of Performing Arts having run away from his unaccepting parents to stay with his Aunt in New York City. I have to say that L My full thoughts can be found in this reading vlog. I was very nervous to pick this up, as Stay Gold was one of the my favorite reads from last year and I wasn't sure if my anticipation for this could live up to the hype I had created for myself. I'm glad to say that this did. It's a pretty different book from McSmith's debut. Here we follow August as he navigates the School of Performing Arts having run away from his unaccepting parents to stay with his Aunt in New York City. I have to say that Lil was one my favorite aspects of the book, she was a great Aunt and getting to see her struggle to take on the parenting aspects while still supporting August and working through her issues with her partner was a delightful subplot. I thought it mirrored August's subplot of trying to fit in at the School of Performing Arts very well. Getting to see August slowly stop treating his every day life as a performance and live more as just himself and stepping into that was great. I thought that the sadder moments in the story were balanced nicely with the just everyday more high school drama one would expect. McSmith just writes books that I want to read an I will likely continue to pick up books by them because they always hit in the way that I want them too.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brad Sells

    Act Cool is one of the most important novels I’ve ever read. This story about identity, family (both biological and chosen), self-acceptance broke my heart and pieced it back together. August Greene is truly a superstar in the making - he made me laugh, he made me frustrated, and he made me root for him from beginning to end. I have no doubt in my mind that Act Cool will change lives, and I’m eternally grateful that a story like this exists to impact readers. TW: transphobia, homophobia, misgend Act Cool is one of the most important novels I’ve ever read. This story about identity, family (both biological and chosen), self-acceptance broke my heart and pieced it back together. August Greene is truly a superstar in the making - he made me laugh, he made me frustrated, and he made me root for him from beginning to end. I have no doubt in my mind that Act Cool will change lives, and I’m eternally grateful that a story like this exists to impact readers. TW: transphobia, homophobia, misgendering, deadnaming, suicidal ideation

  8. 4 out of 5

    Starr ❇✌❇

    I received an ARC from Edeweiss TW: transphobia, homophobia, toxic parents, misgendering, deadnaming, suicidal ideation, religious-based prejudice, threat of conversion therapy, mentioned cheating 2.5 August has finally gotten a fresh start- he's in the school of his dreams, in the city of his dream, and living with his aunt, who's happy to accept him as a boy. But it only happened because he ran away, and he can only keep this life if he lies about it. His parents have to believe that he's liv I received an ARC from Edeweiss TW: transphobia, homophobia, toxic parents, misgendering, deadnaming, suicidal ideation, religious-based prejudice, threat of conversion therapy, mentioned cheating 2.5 August has finally gotten a fresh start- he's in the school of his dreams, in the city of his dream, and living with his aunt, who's happy to accept him as a boy. But it only happened because he ran away, and he can only keep this life if he lies about it. His parents have to believe that he's living like a girl, or else they may make good on their threat of conversion therapy. Trying to hold on to his mother's approval, trying to be funny and cool in acting school- when does he get to just be August? So. I had a lot of issues with this book. Mostly, it's personal issues because this book made me realize that I honestly need to stop getting tempted into reading theatre-centric books because all they do are make me mad. And it can be a little hard to see what I hated and what I hated simply because I was already keyed up- so I'll try to break it down and be fair here. First of all, I'm always glad to see trans rep. August is a messy character with a messy story, and it's different than the ones who have come before him. I loved that he got to be openly trans and generally accepted by his classmates, and got to come from a small town to find diversity and another trans person to take him under her wing. The fact that this book exists is great, and I'm glad McSmith went for something more complicated than what he could have done. This is also an extremely emotional book, that strikes a lot of chords at once. This book made me so upset, so many times. McSmith crafts difficult situations and oppression well enough to really embed them into you. It's impossible to read this book and not have a reaction. Now, I did, as I said, have issues. And I'm going to start with the obvious, so I can get past it. The theatre in this book is unrealistic and frustrating! The information given, the way auditions are written, the sheer choices August makes- terrible! I cannot take this "acting school" seriously, because dear God they would have helped this boy. I was a theatre major, acting has been a part of my life for over a decade, and I have been on pretty much all sides of the stage and the audition room- and so many things in this book were written so badly. Which, because of the terrible choices made, and the weird way McSmith decided to characterize August as "a theatre person" as if he were a theatre everyman made me really hate him. If you are not a theatre professional, you may not have problems with these things. But it really, really affected my reading experience. However, even if this hadn't been the case, I doubt I would have liked August. All of the characters in this book are flat. They're pretty static and have barely any depth. As interesting as August should be, I find zero truth in him and I could not at all get into his arc. I think part of that is because there are three arcs happening and only one of them are good. You have the theatre arc/school arc, which I will get to in a second, but was not good. And then the "making friends and being yourself" arc which just felt ill defined and confusing for lack of focus. And then the arc about August being trans and dealing with his parents and the reality of his identity- that was good! As upsetting as those sections tended to be, I wish there was more of them in this book. With the education aspect, I could never have liked August. He comes into a new school where his acceptance is almost a miracle- and then takes no notes, doesn't take the classes seriously, refuses to learn acting techniques, etc etc. I kept expecting there to be a change here or a lesson. But there isn't! We're supposed to get mad at other people for thinking he shouldn't be there, and watch him worry if he belongs there but shrug at his refusal to actually do the work and act like he wants to be there??? There's also a sheer amount of unnecessary drama in this book. With the whole making friends and romance part of things, it feels up in the air and soap opera-y. I don't know why there had to be a romance in this book at all, but there definitely didn't need to be three. The friendship drama, the romance drama, the background cheating- literally what was the point? It was exhausting. And, finally, I just fully do not like how this book is written. It's clunky, the transitions are weird, there is a complete lack of subtlety. It's not a book I enjoyed reading in basically any fashion. I'm sure other people will like this book, and I respect the amount of emotion in it and the representation is brings. But it wasn't the book for me at all.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    All right so my second favourite genre is very quickly becoming books about theatre if that counts as a genre but for all future intents and purposes please consider it as such! This is a powerhouse of a theatre book because it works on multiple levels. Theatre is more than just a setting or a passion here, it is a window into August’s heart, a breaking down of barriers to find emotional connection and healing, and the full realization of taking a terrifying risk in order to be completely vulner All right so my second favourite genre is very quickly becoming books about theatre if that counts as a genre but for all future intents and purposes please consider it as such! This is a powerhouse of a theatre book because it works on multiple levels. Theatre is more than just a setting or a passion here, it is a window into August’s heart, a breaking down of barriers to find emotional connection and healing, and the full realization of taking a terrifying risk in order to be completely vulnerable and honest with an audience. I was so, so moved by this book. It is such an important addition to the YA shelves for its #ownvoices trans representation, which feels so personal, so vulnerable here, and for how it brings awareness to the trans experience in a way that reaches your heart, not just your head. It made my heart ache and then break on more than one occasion (I definitely think readers should be mindful of the very considerate content warning given at the start of the book if the issues explored here are close to your heart - it doesn’t shy away from the hard things, and I can’t begin to imagine how it might feel to read if you have gone through/are going through what August is). In short, this book cracked open my soul in a very necessary way, and I’m so thankful for that, and it goes without saying that I ate up all the theatre stuff with a spoon. I would love more August in a sequel, Tobly Mcsmith, just saying!! He is an absolute star.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Em Cheeseman

    This book was amazing, it was so real and honest and had such great LGBTQIA+ representation, I felt seen and valid reading this book. Definitely had some triggering moments that are hard to get through but overall it amazing book!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jackson Theofore Keys

    I really had hopes for this book. But, although the transgender representation was better than most, the book was a dud. August, a white, transgender boy runs away from his parents to his aunt and the bright lights of New York City. There his aunt, who is obviously well-to-do and connected, helps get August into the best drama high school in all off New York. There August proceeds to play versions of himself to match what he perceives the will make the people around him like him. Thus, we never I really had hopes for this book. But, although the transgender representation was better than most, the book was a dud. August, a white, transgender boy runs away from his parents to his aunt and the bright lights of New York City. There his aunt, who is obviously well-to-do and connected, helps get August into the best drama high school in all off New York. There August proceeds to play versions of himself to match what he perceives the will make the people around him like him. Thus, we never get to really know August or his friends. But for August, everything is golden. He is cast into the prestigious school play and then to an off-Broadway play. And he does this in less than 6 months. So, except for his parents not accepting him as transgender, the whole world has bowed under his feet. So this book is really about a privileged, transgender youth who doesn't have to struggle much and gets all his dreams fulfilled by the age of 17 without much work. There was so little plot and so little character development and so much privilege that I was thoroughly bored. Nothing happened, August was a boring, egotistical lout, and all his friends were rich, entitled boy and girls who immediately love August. Happy trans endings are great; but trans people also deserve well written stories.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Frank Chillura (OhYouRead)

    Oh! My! Goodness!!!!!!! I just finished one the best books I’ve read all year! And I’ve read some INCREDIBLE ones! Act Cool is the newest book from Tobly McSmith, who published his first novel, Stay Gold, in 2020. It follows a trans boy who runs away to live with his aunt in NYC after he finds a pamphlet about conversion therapy in the mail. When I tell you this story has everything I want in a book, I mean EVERYTHING!!!!! We get a transgender MC in August Greene. We get a performing arts high sc Oh! My! Goodness!!!!!!! I just finished one the best books I’ve read all year! And I’ve read some INCREDIBLE ones! Act Cool is the newest book from Tobly McSmith, who published his first novel, Stay Gold, in 2020. It follows a trans boy who runs away to live with his aunt in NYC after he finds a pamphlet about conversion therapy in the mail. When I tell you this story has everything I want in a book, I mean EVERYTHING!!!!! We get a transgender MC in August Greene. We get a performing arts high school (which was my DREAM when I was a teenager). We get an incredible artist lesbian aunt in Lil. We got a plethora of queer characters who are so incredible in and of themselves… including Anna and Elijah, his new best friends, Jacks the non-binary dancer, and Juliet, who is August’s “Fairy Trans-Sis”, which btw, I LOVED! But most importantly, we got an impressive Found Family!!! I just want another 20 books with August and his friends!!!!!! I finished this book way after my bedtime, because I couldn’t put it down! I laughed, I cried, I wanted to punch a stupid person in the mouth… but the entire time I read this story, I felt the love and respect his friends had for him! I also felt the pain for not being accepted by his family. This was a rollercoaster of emotions and now, after being strapped in for the time of my life, I’m spent.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shay

    Temporary DNF @30% will pick up again though. my mental health at the moment isn't in the right place for this book and some of the themes. I was enjoying the writing and what was going on in the story. Temporary DNF @30% will pick up again though. my mental health at the moment isn't in the right place for this book and some of the themes. I was enjoying the writing and what was going on in the story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hayden (bookish.hayden)

    CW: transphobia, homophobia, misgendering, dead naming, and suicide ideation. Read through those twice if you’re considering this book please Aspiring actor August Greene just landed a coveted spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts in New York. There’s only one problem: His conservative parents won’t accept that he’s transgender. And to stay with his aunt in the city, August must promise them he won’t transition. August is convinced he can play the part his parents want while acting c CW: transphobia, homophobia, misgendering, dead naming, and suicide ideation. Read through those twice if you’re considering this book please Aspiring actor August Greene just landed a coveted spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts in New York. There’s only one problem: His conservative parents won’t accept that he’s transgender. And to stay with his aunt in the city, August must promise them he won’t transition. August is convinced he can play the part his parents want while acting cool and confident in the company of his talented new friends. But who is August when the lights go down? August was a really complex and interesting character, he’s been through a lot and masks his pain with acting. I found it really interesting to go along with him as he acted on and off the stage. I really loved him as a character, he felt incredibly well written. Everyone around August was just as interesting, New York just feels full of cool people. I loved his Aunt, and HATED HIS PARENTS. I found the plot really interesting, the conflicts were well done, the flawed characters really made this book shine. I really don’t have much to say, as I would encourage people considering this book to look for trans reviewers as their thoughts are infinitely more important than mine. But I did really, really enjoy this book

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Rae

    Firstly I have to say that Tobly McSmith has because my new favorite author! I adored Stay Gold, but this book hit me on a different level! August was such a great character he went through so much in such a short amount of time during this book. Running away to New York to audition for a prestigious performing arts high school while being a transgender boy. August meets a huge cast of characters that help him on his journey! I loved loved loved that musical/play aspect seeing these students wor Firstly I have to say that Tobly McSmith has because my new favorite author! I adored Stay Gold, but this book hit me on a different level! August was such a great character he went through so much in such a short amount of time during this book. Running away to New York to audition for a prestigious performing arts high school while being a transgender boy. August meets a huge cast of characters that help him on his journey! I loved loved loved that musical/play aspect seeing these students work to achieve their dreams is great! I think this book could be amazing representation for a lot of people in the LGBT community. However, please read the trigger warnings before you read this book! 5⭐️

  16. 4 out of 5

    JJ

    Is this a highly dramatised version of life, yes. But it's a good hyper-dramatised version! All the characters feel so real despite the setting and even if you don't like them, they are interesting. August had a really good arc throughout this book as well (no spoilers) that I think everyone could take away something from not just trans teengaers. And obviously this book has good trans make representation, which would be good for any trans teenagers reading (though there is a lot of transphobia in Is this a highly dramatised version of life, yes. But it's a good hyper-dramatised version! All the characters feel so real despite the setting and even if you don't like them, they are interesting. August had a really good arc throughout this book as well (no spoilers) that I think everyone could take away something from not just trans teengaers. And obviously this book has good trans make representation, which would be good for any trans teenagers reading (though there is a lot of transphobia in this book so trigger warning) with an optimistic ending.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eva B.

    DNF halfway through I really really wanted to like this (I mean come on, I love theatre and I really liked STAY GOLD), but I'm just not feeling it. There's a weird love square thing happening and while I like August, I just don't think the timing is right for this one. Might pick it up again some time though. DNF halfway through I really really wanted to like this (I mean come on, I love theatre and I really liked STAY GOLD), but I'm just not feeling it. There's a weird love square thing happening and while I like August, I just don't think the timing is right for this one. Might pick it up again some time though.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachael | booksforbrunch

    What's not to love? Trans representation and Broadway. No brainer and oh, so good! What's not to love? Trans representation and Broadway. No brainer and oh, so good!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    A really engaging YA coming of age story with great characters.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sacha

    4.5 stars August Greene, the m.c. of this fantastic novel, has been "acting cool" for a long time in an effort to survive. He has a mother and step-father who are extremely unsupportive of this basic fact: August is a man. When readers meet August, he has (thankfully) run away from these oppressive bigots in Pennsylvania and headed straight into the refuge of his aunt, an artist in New York (whom we instantly learn has a secret of her own; she's in the community, too). August's new life in New Y 4.5 stars August Greene, the m.c. of this fantastic novel, has been "acting cool" for a long time in an effort to survive. He has a mother and step-father who are extremely unsupportive of this basic fact: August is a man. When readers meet August, he has (thankfully) run away from these oppressive bigots in Pennsylvania and headed straight into the refuge of his aunt, an artist in New York (whom we instantly learn has a secret of her own; she's in the community, too). August's new life in New York will feature many changes, not the least of which are a now supportive guardian, a social transition (he's August now - the external is now a closer match to the internal), and a spot at the uncreatively named SPA (School of Performing Arts). Here, August will hone his craft as an actor. He's been doing SO MUCH ACTING offstage, so building community and working through his own truths in this space will certainly be vital to his development. August's journey is nicely balanced. His parents are challenging in every way. Even when they are not in his physical space, they deadname him, misgender him, and tell him about his "confusion" and "sickness," assuring him that God will fix him. It's essential to know that the impetus for August's original departure is also spotting a letter about a conversion therapy camp. These folks are utterly sick, and readers get to witness August's struggles with a number of awful encounters. On the other end of the spectrum, August finds support not only in his aunt but also in various other characters who have differing levels of understanding and acceptance. I really love how McSmith seamlessly weaves in the disparate responses. Characters grapple with what language to use, how to approach August, how not to patronize or generalize, etc. All of this gives readers insight into how tiring August's life is with these constant micro (and macro) aggressions and outright transphobia at times. There are also characters who unwaveringly and expertly support August in their own ways and from various roles in his life (looking at you, Juliet. You need a sequel of your own). Readers of this novel are bound to find both windows and mirrors and countless opportunities to learn and feel affirmed. Though I do think some of August's challenges are too easily resolved and some opportunities are presented too conveniently, I really love this novel overall. It's one I'll not only recommend to my Children's/YA Literature students but also consider teaching in future semesters. That last part is reserved for a *very* small group of texts. *TW: To make this crystal clear, there are numerous instances of deadnaming and misgendering throughout the novel as well as discussions of conversion therapy and suicide/suicidal ideation. Readers should be aware of this content in advance but should also know that - according to this reader - these moments are not extraneous or gratuitous but instead realistic and necessary. **Special thanks to NetGalley and Quill Tree Books for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Diane Adams

    Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. After reading the author’s debut novel, Stay Gold, I had high hopes for Act Cool—and I was not disappointed. “Act” is an important word here—our protagonist, August, has just left his home and family, fearing that they intend to subject him to conversion therapy. August is a transgender teen, and his parents see this as sickness and sin, and will only refer to him as “our daughter” Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. After reading the author’s debut novel, Stay Gold, I had high hopes for Act Cool—and I was not disappointed. “Act” is an important word here—our protagonist, August, has just left his home and family, fearing that they intend to subject him to conversion therapy. August is a transgender teen, and his parents see this as sickness and sin, and will only refer to him as “our daughter” and continue to use his deadname. They agree to let him live with his aunt and attend the School of Performing Arts in New York City—if he agrees not to transition. August is an actor—not only on the stage but throughout his life, and he agrees. He auditions and is accepted into the school, where he finds students much different than back home. He promptly decides how he will act at school, and finds his tribe. But school itself is different as well—expectations are high. Will August be able to keep up, prove himself as an actor, and convince his parents that he’s kept his promise? I relate to this book on several levels. Since my daughter was a teen, I became increasingly aware of young people around her age identifying as transgender and nonbinary. Fortunately, all of those that I was aware of had supportive families. However, I saw that having a child transition could still be difficult for families. Everyone needs to find support somewhere. I hoped to be an actor, but I wasn’t good enough. Reading about the drama classes and rehearsals and the critiques from teachers and directors brought a lot back. There were some life lessons as well as acting lessons here. Back to the word “act”—is it enough to act a part, or is it important to connect to your role, either in a play or in your life? This book deals with some typical teenage stuff, and some really difficult topics. Before the first chapter begins, there is a warning that there will be depictions of transphobia, homophobia, misgendering, deadnaming, and suicidal ideation. And there is contact information for The Trevor Project, should a reader be in crisis. This is an own voices book—the author knows what he’s talking about. Serious topics are dealt with in a realistic, but sensitive manner. It was not always a happy book, but it felt like an important book. I hope that it finds its way into high school libraries and rainbow bookshelves everywhere. Five stars.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jaye Berry

    TW: transphobia, homophobia, misgendering, deadnaming, suicidal ideation Act Cool is about transgender teen August. He just left his home town to live with his aunt in NYC. He wants to be an actor and will do whatever it takes to get there like promising he won't transition just so he can go to a prestigious performing arts school. August is convinced he can play the part his parents want while also being cool to his new friends but when his roles start hitting too close to home, he doesn't know TW: transphobia, homophobia, misgendering, deadnaming, suicidal ideation Act Cool is about transgender teen August. He just left his home town to live with his aunt in NYC. He wants to be an actor and will do whatever it takes to get there like promising he won't transition just so he can go to a prestigious performing arts school. August is convinced he can play the part his parents want while also being cool to his new friends but when his roles start hitting too close to home, he doesn't know who he is. I can say I liked this much better than this author's debut but also I didn't like it too much. While I understand this book is important, it's just so depressing. I've never been a fan of LGBT ya books just being filled with hate crimes left and right, with characters being homophobic and the MC just has to be bRAVE and STRONG to fight the fact that even existing is hard. Even within this book August goes off about not wanting to play trans characters that are suffering and yet he gets trapped into that mold anyway?? Basically I just want more YA books that are just romances or fantasy or whatever where the character is trans and allowed to live and be happy without getting shit on endlessly first. The found family was sweet though and I liked August's bond with Juliet but the romance was kind of pointless. He jumps between who he wants to kith and then it gets so dumb and messy between his friends. Soap operas be like. I could have lived without August's annoying inner monologue about being a cOoL guy though. His whole take on acting was just... pls stop you are cringe. I don't know why I thought I could read a book where the MC loves Broadway plays and wants to be an actor but every time (and this was multiple times) when August mentioned that he wanted to play sUpEr iconic Evan Hansen I gagged. (Insert joke about how only 40 year old Ben Platt can play that character *pukes*). I love so many of these damn plays myself but he really made it his personality and it was so cringy when he would keep quoting Hamilton. Suddenly I don't like plays. Love the cover. I don't know who this author sold his soul to to get these banger covers but I support that.

  23. 5 out of 5

    miracle

    Thank you to NetGalley and Quill Tree Books for the ARC! tw: transphobia, homophobia, misgendering, deadnaming, suicidal thoughts and ideation, religion, conversion therapy August Greene is an aspiring actor from a tiny town in Pennsylvania that just landed a spot at his dream high school, the School of the Performing Arts in New York City. The issue? His parents, who refuse to let August transition and insist that's he's "sick" and the only way to "fix" him is by sending him to conversion therap Thank you to NetGalley and Quill Tree Books for the ARC! tw: transphobia, homophobia, misgendering, deadnaming, suicidal thoughts and ideation, religion, conversion therapy August Greene is an aspiring actor from a tiny town in Pennsylvania that just landed a spot at his dream high school, the School of the Performing Arts in New York City. The issue? His parents, who refuse to let August transition and insist that's he's "sick" and the only way to "fix" him is by sending him to conversion therapy, do not want him to attend the school. Thankfully, August's aunt steps in and gets him his audition and offers him a place to live in New York while he attends the school of his dreams. To get his mother to agree,, August promise's he won't transition and will stay his mother's daughter while in school. Can August keep his life together while trying to live the way everyone else wants him to in a new school? First of all, I love that this book starts out with trigger warnings. I read Tobly's Stay Gold book and while I really enjoyed it, I was super unprepared for how dark it really got. So, I appreciate the heck out of this one for telling up front there are some harsh and very real things discussed in this book. I really loved this book. August trying his best to live the way that he thought everyone in his life wanted him to be was just such a relatable experience to me. He talked a lot throughout the book about how he acted every day to be the daughter his mother wanted, even though he knew he was her son. I loved that the book connected that to August's love of acting and how that was affecting him as a person. This book dealt with so many intense, important things (and I think it will help to spark a lot of important discussions) but it didn't feel too heavy and ultimately was an uplifting story of a trans teenager finding himself, and the importance of family- chosen, found, or biological. I definitely cried a few times, and I adore August and the crazy group of friends he found at SPA. If the trigger warnings are something you can handle, I definitely recommend picking this one up. I enjoyed it immensely.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rhys

    *thank you hccfrenzy for a copy in exchange for an honest review* I don’t even know where I should start with Act Cool. There are no words for me to describe how many emotions I had reading this, how felt I seen, how I related to August. Im a transgender male just like August, and I felt 100% seen in Act Cool. Act Cool follows August, a transgender teen from Pennsylvania. August’s parents are unaccepting and still think of him as their daughter, so he runs away to New York City to audition for th *thank you hccfrenzy for a copy in exchange for an honest review* I don’t even know where I should start with Act Cool. There are no words for me to describe how many emotions I had reading this, how felt I seen, how I related to August. Im a transgender male just like August, and I felt 100% seen in Act Cool. Act Cool follows August, a transgender teen from Pennsylvania. August’s parents are unaccepting and still think of him as their daughter, so he runs away to New York City to audition for the School of Performing Arts. He stays with his Aunt while trying to figure out how he can get his parents to accept the fact that he is transgender. He is convinced he can play the part his parents want him to, but what happens when the lights go down? Where will he go when his parts start hitting too close to home? This book deals with homophobia, transphobia, suicidal thoughts, conversion therapy, and more. Please research this book if you want to read it, it’s a hard hitting contemporary about trans lives. I related with August so much, I can’t even describe it. We are very similar, (however I’m not an actor) but a difference is that my parents are accepting. I had so many thoughts that my parents would be like August parents. This happens with a lot of trans people; unaccepting parents. And when we have unaccepting parents, where do you think our thoughts lead to? Suicide. It’s as simple as that, and this book deals with it. Act Cool also talks about the representation of trans people in movies, plays, and TV shows. Can you think of a trans person in media that has a happy ending (other than in books)? I certainly can’t. Doesn’t that say something? Why can’t we have trans people in media have happy endings that DON’T involve suicide/suicidal thoughts? I just want to be seen on screen, not in books. I have too many emotions from this book to try and put them into words. But I think everyone should read Act Cool. It’s a powerful book about trans people and the representation of trans people in media.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rin

    𝙏𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙠𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙏𝙤𝙗𝙡𝙮 𝙈𝙘𝙎𝙢𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙄 𝙜𝙚𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙣 𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙗𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙨 𝙥𝙚𝙤𝙥𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙝𝙤𝙬 𝙩𝙤 𝙗𝙚 𝙖𝙣 𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮𝙙𝙖𝙮 Can't wait for 7th September 2021!! 𝙏𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙠𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙏𝙤𝙗𝙡𝙮 𝙈𝙘𝙎𝙢𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙄 𝙜𝙚𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙣 𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙗𝙤𝙪𝙩 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙨 𝙥𝙚𝙤𝙥𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙝𝙤𝙬 𝙩𝙤 𝙗𝙚 𝙖𝙣 𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮𝙙𝙖𝙮 Can't wait for 7th September 2021!!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Withers

    Loved this book - about truth and found family and living as yourself.

  27. 4 out of 5

    VL

    Really enjoyed this just as much as I liked Tobly's first book. Really enjoyed this just as much as I liked Tobly's first book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kristine Kowalski

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing an advance e-ARC for review. I really enjoy Tobly McSmith's voice and writing style, including when I was introduced to his words through Stay Gold. Normally, I wouldn't compare publications that aren't part of an ongoing series because it has to be incredibly nerve wracking to live up to expectations when you have something entirely new to say -- but I have a feeling many readers will be curious about Act Cool *because* of Stay Gold. I'd s Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing an advance e-ARC for review. I really enjoy Tobly McSmith's voice and writing style, including when I was introduced to his words through Stay Gold. Normally, I wouldn't compare publications that aren't part of an ongoing series because it has to be incredibly nerve wracking to live up to expectations when you have something entirely new to say -- but I have a feeling many readers will be curious about Act Cool *because* of Stay Gold. I'd say briefly that I personally had mixed feelings about SG because going in, I thought it was going to be a mostly happy, lighthearted rom-com boosted and informed by real-life issues facing trans teens, and was definitely caught off guard by that not being the case at all. For AC, I was more prepared and less disappointed, to put it simply. I do, however, believe this story could be triggering and difficult for readers who have shared experiences with the main character, August. Please take care with your reading, and consult the author's trigger warnings page beforehand. The story centers around August leaving behind his conservative and restrictive parents and starting a new pursuit at a performing arts high school in NYC. He stays with his (truly wonderful!) aunt who welcomes him so warmly, and has seemingly done a lot of off-page work to aid his acting career. August believes he is an excellent actor because, in addition to his longtime penchant for the stage, he also has been acting the role of "daughter" for his parents for his entire life, as they refuse to see him any other way. In his acting pursuits, this makes August a bit of a brat - he's unwilling to follow any teachers' advice or try out their suggested performance methods, because he already knows he's the ultimate expert. In his social life, August continues "acting" the roles he thinks his new classmates expect, like the "cool party guy" or "city newbie." And when it comes to his identity, he's simultaneously seeking to finally live authentically, but he's also putting on a show 24/7. It's all truly authentic: sometimes frustrating, sometimes so relatable, sometimes heartbreaking, and sometimes demonstrative of such incredible growth. The author's own love for theater - and the characters he creates, like August - is apparent on every page. I'm also really thrilled that this book focuses on the importance of found family, through friends and community. That being said, I think August's friends, classmates, and co-stars embraced him far more than he did them. It's not that I think he wasn't ever there for his friends - he had a lot going on and it's understandable. But they offered so much support and an instant theater family, and many characters looked out for him in such big, important ways, and I can't say August really listened or paid attention to anyone else. He was excruciatingly false with so many people who could see right through his BS and while I appreciate the message that they'd still be there for him no matter what, that kind of deep friendship does require work on both sides.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sean Loughran

    Act Cool is ultimately a book about self-acceptance with strong LGBTQ themes throughout. It's a timely and important read, not only for teens and young adults, but for everyone. The book follows the life of main protagonist, August Greene, a trans teenager struggling with finding himself. We meet him when he's recently run away from his mother and stepfather who live in the conservative town of West Grove, Pennsylvania. He's fresh to New York City, auditioning for the acclaimed and prestigious Sc Act Cool is ultimately a book about self-acceptance with strong LGBTQ themes throughout. It's a timely and important read, not only for teens and young adults, but for everyone. The book follows the life of main protagonist, August Greene, a trans teenager struggling with finding himself. We meet him when he's recently run away from his mother and stepfather who live in the conservative town of West Grove, Pennsylvania. He's fresh to New York City, auditioning for the acclaimed and prestigious School of Performing Arts, and living with his aunt Lilian, a fun loving and accepting artist and closeted lesbian, who also feels forced to hide her identity from her religious family. Aunt Lil is a wonderful character who supports August in every aspect of discovering his true identity. She took him in after finding out his parents were considering sending him to a conversion therapy called Brand New Day which pushed August to experience dark thoughts and suicidal ideation. "Things got dark after coming out to my parents. I was lost. And uncomfortable in a body that continued to defy me with the beginning of boobs and hips." August is a complex character, a talented actor used to playing the part of daughter for his parents, and various other parts for other people in his life. But it's just now, with aunt Lil and his new friends at school that he's truly discovering who he is, rather than the parts he's become an expert at playing. What's clear is just how much our main protagonist seeks acceptance off the stage living a new life where he feels lost, and I was glad he got some of that immediate acceptance fulfilled from his outgoing friends at school. The book explores a lot of intense real life emotions that will be relatable to many, especially the response from August's unaccepting parents, which angered me throughout. It's heartbreaking to see how much he misses his mom despite her forcing August to live life as a female, with severe consequences if he doesn't. Act Cool was highly readable, enjoyable, and engaging. I came to really love the range of vibrant and diverse characters as the story developed, especially Aunt Lilian, Juliet, and Elijah. There's also some great LGBTQ representation and use of pronouns throughout. Overall, I found this book to be a deeply touching and heartwarming and it was written in a beautiful way. I recommend it for anyone who has struggled with gender, identity, or sexuality. It was my first Tobly McSmith novel, and now I can't wait to purchase a copy of his debut, Stay Gold, which I've heard great things about. Avocado Diaries

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Rideout

    I received an ARC of Act Cool from the HarperCollins Canada influencer team after attending the Fall YA catalogue preview event. Thank you so much for sending the book! My thoughts are my own, my review is honest, and I regret that I didn't receive it in time to get my review out prior to release day. Oh my gosh, this book is amazing! August is a trans teen who has just run away from his home in Pennsylvania and his ultra-religious transphobic parents to live with his aunt in New York and attend I received an ARC of Act Cool from the HarperCollins Canada influencer team after attending the Fall YA catalogue preview event. Thank you so much for sending the book! My thoughts are my own, my review is honest, and I regret that I didn't receive it in time to get my review out prior to release day. Oh my gosh, this book is amazing! August is a trans teen who has just run away from his home in Pennsylvania and his ultra-religious transphobic parents to live with his aunt in New York and attend a prestigious performing arts high school. His dream is to make a name for himself on Broadway, and not just as a trans actor playing trans roles. In fact, he doesn't want trans roles. Imagine the conflict, then, when a play about conversion therapy comes to town, plans to make use of the school's theatre for rehearsal, and everyone is protesting the casting of a cis actor for an important trans speaking role. This book has so much to say about learning to face, accept, and when necessary, move on from unsupportive family. Sometimes the best family is the family you choose, and August definitely learns to let go of the family that won't support him while embracing the family who will. There's also a lot in here about living your truth no matter what, and getting to a point in your own personal growth and healing where you're able to drop any acts and masks you've put on for survival in the past and instead learn to just be yourself. Even for non-trans kids, teens, and young adults, these are important lessons to learn, but I do believe this book will be a very important, influential book for countless trans and non-binary young people. With that said, I don't think this book should be a first trans story for anyone. It does an excellent job telling the story of a trans teen who has escaped an unsupportive situation and is learning to live in a supportive one, but it does very little to explain the culture and language of the LGBTQIA+ community and trans terminology in general. For those things, I would recommend starting with something like Felix Ever After and then coming here next. I really enjoyed all the different plays that were mentioned in this book, too. Come From Away got a mention! Newfoundlander here, that made me smile! But also film, and how theatre and cinema play a huge role in LGBTQIA+ culture. Rocky Horror screening with all the bells and whistles? Amazing! "You'll be drier here." "Drier?" Oh sweet, innocent August... This book broke my heart, but it's absolutely forgiven for doing so.

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