Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith fulfilled the
category “A Book about
a Fresh Start” for the PopSugar 2021 Reading Challenge. In this novel, Pony, a
transgender boy, starts over at a new high school.
I will be honest. The title and the main character’s name were the reason I
chose this novel. As you know, I go on and on about Jane Austen. But The
Outsiders by SE Hinton was the story that started me writing at the tender
age of eleven. I created gallons of fanfiction for that novel, and I might have
some still in my hope chest. But Stay Gold is not a retelling of Ms.
Hinton’s book. And I’m
cool with that because this story caught me from the start.
Pony is a seventeen-year-old transgender boy who is
tired of being the token LGBTQIA kid at his school. His family moves to a new
town, and Pony tries to go stealth and pass as his chosen gender. He wants to
keep his past a secret and not revealing the whole truth about himself. He
meets a cheerleader, Georgia, on the first day, and sparks fly. Georgia has her
own issues about being true to herself and thus we have conflict, attraction,
teenage angst, and a sweet love story.
This book does a superb job giving insight into being
transgender and the difficulties people face. Having Pony’s sections in first-person
drove the point home even harder. These poor kids/people are struggling to be who
they truly are, and the rest of the world is worried about which bathroom they
use. Sigh. I loved that Pony struggled, not with his identity—he knew he was a
male. Instead, he has a hard time advocating for the LGBTQIA community because
it means exposing himself to public scrutiny. How many teens just wanna hide
their real selves because of all the social media pressure? I felt for this boy
and his struggle with so many things. It’s tough at that age not to fit into
the categories of high school social life, but also, it’s hard to be the
representative of a category.
That issue was something Georgia, the love interest,
dealt with. She created her persona based on who she thought she should be. She
was pretending to be something she wasn’t, hiding behind her pompoms. That is why the two clicked
so well. Both kids were struggling with being their complete selves in public.
It’s difficult at any age.
The only thing I did not like was the drug and
alcohol use. It was casual, and no one (really) got into dangerous situations
by using. (I won’t
mention the end of the book where it was sort of an issue but not by the main
characters… anyway…) But as a mom of teens, it bothered me. Yes, this depiction
was probably realistic, or even a milder picture of what goes on. But I don’t
want to think about my girls going to parties with alcohol freely flowing. I’ve
always been stinky about drinking and drug use. I’m a nerd. What can I say?
Anyway, Stay Gold is a romance in the truest
sense of the category. Two people must overcome their internal and external
conflicts to find each other. Spoiler, the book has a happy ending.
I give Stay
Gold by Tobly McSmith Five Sonic Strawberry Limeades.