Author: Mason Deaver
Narrator: M.W. Wilson
Audiobook Length: 8 hours 34 minutes
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.
I Wish You All the Best first caught my attention based on its amazing cover before I knew anything about the story. Once I read the blurb, I was excited to read it as nonbinary individuals are very underrepresented in novels. There are rare cases where they are included as secondary characters, but even rarer to read one that includes a nonbinary main character. Mason Deaver delivered a character that a reader connects with and wants to root for, which is one of the many reasons why I enjoyed this story.
Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary but does not get met with the acceptance they crave. Instead, their parents’ kick them out of the house forcing Ben to not only try to find a new home, but to deal with the aftermath of parents, who should accept their children for who they are, rejecting them. The raw emotions and pain that Ben goes through in this story continues to be explored as they move in with their estranged sister, Hannah, who left home 10 years ago. Ben and Hannah have their own complex relationship, but they want to try to be there for each other now despite the time apart.
Starting anew at school, Ben tries to fly under the radar, but is thwarted when popular student Nathan Allen decides to take Ben under his wing. Nathan was a nice ray of sunshine in Ben’s life, and I loved the chemistry he and Ben shared. Ben initially tries to push Nathan a way and its interesting seeing their dynamic as unsure what the other is thinking to being more understanding. Their romance is a slow burn, which for the romantic in me was frustrating. Ben has clear feelings for Nathan from the beginning and Nathan’s feelings are obvious to the reader, so the anticipation for the two of them to acknowledge it to each other was nicely done on the author’s part as it gives that anticipation for the romance.
There is a lot of raw emotion in this story and Ben’s thought process may or may not match with others going through similar situations, but I like how consistent Ben’s growth was throughout the story. It was very realistic as it was not linear, and their mental health may not have been easily understood by those around them. All the elements of Ben’s character were the standouts of the story. The writing itself was a little difficult with the pacing and timelines as it took me a minute to track it all. When you combine this with the heavier topics, it was a lot for a reader. There were a few conversations/word choices that felt very formal and others that felt more casual, so this part was a little inconsistent; however, the encompassing feel of the story alone makes it well worth the read. Overall, this was an excellent story and now I need to find myself a copy of the short story, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, to follow-up with these amazing characters!