Book Review

The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons

LGBTQ Book Review

Genre | YA Contemporary Fiction
Page #s | 304
Publishing Date | June 2021

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother and a Messi-in-training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio. 

At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boy’s soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans – he’s passing. 

So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the ‘F’ on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even if it means coming out to everyone – including the guy he’s falling for.


The Passing Playbook is a super cute story about a teen boy wrestling with the decision to pass or to live openly as trans in a high school regardless of consequences. He’s going to play soccer and fall in love along the way, so if that sounds fun to you, you’re probably going to love this sweet, quick read!

This book wants to be an enemies-to-lovers romance, but the animosity between Spencer and Justice at the beginning feels forced and uncharacteristically rude. Once that is dropped and they’re allowed to play out a friends-to-lovers romance, it’s so much better. This is a relationship between a closeted trans boy and a closeted Christian boy – it doesn’t need the added drama. For the majority of the book, their relationship is sweet, tentative, and full of emotion…just what I love to see!

I always find it necessary to point out when queer characters are already out to their supportive family, and this is one of those books. But there’s an added dimension here that I really liked where Spencer’s parents have fully supported his transition but are still very fearful of allowing him to live an out-and-proud life. This felt very realistic, and it was a nuanced familial dynamic that I appreciated seeing.

Teen boys are hit or miss for me in YA books, so I was delighted to read a book about a soccer team full of boys who are very sweet and supportive of queer people. The fact that the GSA club at the school is less supportive of trans students was poignant and telling.

Who Do I Recommend This Book To?

The Passing Playbook is a cute YA romance with a healthy dose of soccer – read accordingly!

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

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