Review: The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons

Coming out was never easy, even when it went well.’

Publisher: Penguin Books, Dial Books (USA)

Release date: 1st June 2021

Pages: 304

Representation: Trans (FTM), Non-Binary, BIPOC, MLM.

Trigger warnings: homophobia, transphobia, religious extremism

Summary: Spencer is Trans. After problems at his old school, he’s determined to have a fresh start. The fewer people know about his birth gender, the better, but when his chance to play Football (soccer) is jeopardised, Spencer has to choose between revealing his secrets or losing the game he loves.

Purchase the book using the following links to support Indie bookshops, and me:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Outside of it’s own story, the passing playbook is a love letter to LGBTQIA+ youth everywhere.

I didn’t have high hopes for this book. I’m not a football fan, but this was gifted to me, so I thought I’d see what it was like. I’m so glad I did.

I don’t cry at books a lot, but it was hard not to be emotional whilst reading this. It handles LGBTQIA+ issues in a way I’ve rarely seen in media. It made me feel heard and showed me that I didn’t imagine experiences that I’ve had myself (i.e. homophobia from other members of the LGBTQIA+ community).

Spencer is a typical teenager, precisely the opposite of the chosen one. The majority of the book focuses on how the people around him act, and how much it affects him and what he’s going through. I got so excited when the love interest admitted he was gay, even though I knew it was coming. I cared that much about the characters and their relationship. I really was rooting for them, and the more I found out the more I wanted them to have their happy ending.

It’s written in easy to read prose, perfect for the age at which it’s aimed. All of it is simple to understand, and because of it, we also understand Spencer’s struggles and pain. There’s not doubt about how much he’s hurting, or falling in love, or questioning everything.

The side characters are a huge variety of people, and were extremely well written. I liked them until I didn’t, or I didn’t even think of them until they were brought into the spotlight.

The book contained a lot of intended transphobia/homophobia from certain side characters, but it was dealt with in a respectful way and shown as wrong. None of it was excused; not even subtle passing comments, as they so often are in real life.

I didn’t give it five stars because of how slowly the plot progressed. The main plot issue doesn’t present itself until later chapters and is over within about 30 pages. I understand that the antagonist of this story isn’t a physical being; it’s internalised transphobia, but without further direct obstacles, the story is anticlimactic and doesn’t live up to all it could be. (In other words, I had a vibe whilst reading it)

Finishing this book felt like a warm hug. I know for certain I’m going to be chasing that feeling in my next few reads; it’s one we all long for but is so hard to find within the pages of even the best written books.

Fatal flaw: A weak plot- I was waiting for the part on the blurb to come into play, but it took far too long. It ruined all suspense.

Shining glory: Lighthearted , unapologetic and easy to read, it offers the story of an LGBT boy written in the best style.

Read this if: You like easy reading, want some good LGBTQIA+ representation and are prepared for some tears.

Skip this if: You prefer heavily plot driven books, or prefer a more complicated read. You don’t want to read about real life Trans and LGBTQIA+ struggles that may hit too close to home.

Purchase the book using the following links to support Indie bookshops, and me:



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