Book Review: Act Cool – Tobly McSmith



Aspiring actor August Greene just landed a coveted spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts in New York. There’s only one problem: His conservative parents won’t accept that he’s transgender. And to stay with his aunt in the city, August must promise them he won’t transition.

August is convinced he can play the part his parents want while acting cool and confident in the company of his talented new friends.

But who is August when the lights go down? And where will he turn when the roles start hitting a little too close to home?


Can I start this review by saying: I actually finished a book. You have no idea how much of an accomplishment that has been for me this year after a very long reading slump. And I am more than happy for Tobly McSmith’s new book, Act Cool, to have broken my slump. Thank you.

I loved reading Act Cool. There is so much on offer; from the highly readable diary style format to the school of performing arts setting, along with diverse and wonderful characters. I was expecting something quite dramatic and lots of teen hormones but it is actually much darker and complicated than that. The main character, August, is trying to transition without his parents’ knowledge whilst simultaneously trying to live so many lives and satisfy so many people that he forgets what it means to be yourself.

Without spoiling the story, the standout aspect of the plot is August’s relationship with his parents. Walking alongside August as he reflects on his relationship with his mother, the good bits and the bad, gave me a whole new perspective on why it’s so difficult for people to walk away from family members who refuse to accept them for who they are.

My only minor criticism of this book is that I would like to have seen fewer, more developed characters and clearer links with the protagonist. There were one or two characters that were introduced early on with very inflammatory scenes, a bit of drama, and then I felt they disappeared until right towards the end when they reappeared for a resolution. I just found it slightly distracting when I couldn’t remember who was who but that may well be a symptom of old age.

What I would say is: that ending? Nailed it.

Act Cool has so much on offer. Tobly McSmith should be incredibly proud of this wonderful book and I hope it reaches the hands of those who most need to read it. I highly recommend this book for reading groups, particularly teen groups, and I will be recommending it to my library as a book to order.

Many thanks to HarperYA for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Order now!

You can support your local bookshop by buying Act Cool through them directly, or via Hive or*.

*Affiliate link

What do you think of Act Cool? Will you be reading it? Let me know in the comments below.

Wishing you a wonderfully bookish week,


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