I Wish You All The Best is the 2019 teen coming-of-age romance about high-schooler Ben De Backer whose world completely changes after confiding in their parents that they are non-binary. This debut novel has picked up nominations from such awards as the Rhode Island Teen Book Award (2021) and the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction (2019)
Synopsis: When Ben De Backer tells their parents their true gender orientation, they are kicked our of their home. The words ‘I am non-binary’ is all it takes to upend Ben’s life. Forced to moved in with their distant sister and brother-in-law, Ben is left reeling from the rejection of their parents, grappling with their identity and the affects this has on their mental health, until they meet fellow senior Nathan Allan and an endearing friendship blossoms.
This lgbtqiap+ story attentively recognises the displacement that often comes with questioning one’s sexual and gender identity especially during adolescence. It draws from elements of the author’s personal experience who like our main character is also non-binary. The immediacy of this connection comes through in the writing as we read about Ben’s innermost thoughts, the way they struggle to process their emotions and their guardedness in interacting with others.
I appreciated how socially conscious this book was, how it portrays ethnic minorities with insight and respect. This is most notably apparent through the characters of Nathan, the charismatic, dog-loving best friend and Mariam, the queer, hijabi, vlogging star. They might be side characters but there was nothing tokenistic or insensitive about their development as is often found in books, young adult or otherwise, with non-white, non-cis or non-straight supporting personas.
The storyline mostly progresses in linear quotidian style which I found mundane at times (I like my flashbacks and jumping timelines). I think the linear approach can also be effective as long as it doesn’t fall into a day-by-day banality which this book unfortunately did at times. But minor grievances aside, I thought I Wish You All The Best was a cute and hopeful story and a merit to modern-day young adult fiction.