About the Book

Title: Stay Gold
Published: 2020
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Shiny
BFF Charms: Yay and Meh
Talky Talk: Own Voice
Bonus Factor: Awesome Sister
Anti-Bonus Factors: Awful Parent, Reality of Life as a Trans Youth
Relationship Status: Friends

Content Warning: Stay Gold features scenes of bullying, transphobia/homophobia, assault, forced closeting, and thoughts of suicide that might be triggering for some readers.

Cover Story: Shiny

I dig the illustrations—even if neither of the main characters actually has pink hair—and the title treatment. But the fact that figures aren’t centered irks me to no end. (Must. Have. Symmetry.)

The Deal:

Pony Jacobs is an army brat who’s starting fresh at Hillcrest High School for his senior year of high school. He’s looking to keep a low-ish profile; no one wants to be the new kid at a school where most people have known each other their entire lives. He also needs to keep a low profile to keep himself safe; Pony is trans and doesn’t want anyone at his new school to know. But when he catches the eye of a hot cheerleader on his first day—and ends up having pretty much every class with her—he starts thinking that he might need to be more open than he planned.

BFF Charms: Yay and Meh

Yay BFF Charm

Pony is great. He’s clever, interesting, and witty. He’s confident (to an extent) and forgiving, and a great sense of style. He’s hiding who he is, sure, but I can’t blame him. He’s a trans teen—at a high school in Texas. I can’t even begin to put myself in his shoes, but I’d certainly like to be part of his support system.

BFF charm with a :-| face

Georgia is a hot, popular cheerleader who hides who she really is by telling lies and following the whims of her other cheerleader friends. She doesn’t want to be that way, but she doesn’t try very hard to be different; she’s far too concerned with keeping up appearances and meeting others’ expectations of her and her social status. She, thankfully, grows a lot over the course of the book, but she’s still not the kind of person I’d actively seek out as a friend. (And, were I friends with Pony, I likely would have tried to talk him out of pursuing her.)

She also doesn’t believe that the moon landing happened, which I just … I cannot.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

The relationship between Pony and Georgia is at the heart of Stay Gold, but it does not run a smooth and easy course.

Talky Talk: Own Voice

Stay Gold is an important book for one main reason: It’s a story of a trans boy when stories about trans youths are still few and far between. McSmith, who is trans, wrote in his intro: “As a transgender guy, I haven’t seen myself in enough books, so I sat down and wrote.” Additionally, it’s a book that people can see themselves in even if they’re not transgender—having a crush on someone outside of your social group and/or struggling with your identity during high school are themes that most actual YAs can commiserate with (and those of us who are not YAs can remember well). It isn’t an easy read, but it speaks the truth of many trans kids, as heartbreaking as that might be.

Bonus Factor: Awesome Sister

Katniss looking adoringly at her little sister Prim

Pony’s older sister Rocky is a breath of fresh air. She’s a sex-positive free spirit who literally walked off the stage at her high school graduation and went to New York City. She’s Pony’s biggest supporter and fan who pushes him to do things he might otherwise avoid. We all need a Rocky in our lives.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Awful Parent

Evil Dan Scott from One Tree Hill

Pony’s dad is a stereotypical Army guy, and refuses to use Pony’s proper pronouns or call him by his name, instead referring to him as “his daughter” and using his deadname. I know parents can have a hard time with what they don’t understand, but it didn’t even seem like he was trying.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Reality of Life as a Trans Youth

Transgender flag

*waves hand toward Content Warnings at top of review* I felt like crying reading this book. Humans are the worst to each other.

Relationship Status: Friends

I know you’re important, Book, and I certainly appreciate that. Our time together opened my eyes to the reality of someone unlike myself and made me want to be a better ally to the queer community. I really don’t like your taste in women, but If you’re happy, I’ll keep my opinions to myself.

Literary Matchmaking


Here’s a collection of some of our favorite love stories featuring transgender youth: Meredith Russo’s Birthday… 

When the Moon Was Ours

Anna-Marie McLemore’s When the Moon Was Ours

If I Was Your Girl

And Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperTeen, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Stay Gold will be available May 26.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.