Exclusive: Read an excerpt from The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimmons

The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons. Image courtesy Penguin Random House
The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons. Image courtesy Penguin Random House /
The Passing Playbook book cover
The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons. Image courtesy Penguin Random House /

June is Pride Month and that means a ton of great titles centering the LGBTQ+ experience are heading to a bookstore near you in the next few weeks. (Not for nothing, but it’s also a great time to revisit some of the titles you may have missed in the last year, too!) But one of the most timely and relevant releases coming over next month has to be Isaac Fitzsimmons’ debut, The Passing Playbook.

Described as Love, Simon meets Friday Night LightsThe Passing Playbook is a feel-good romance about a trans teen torn between standing up for his rights and staying stealth at his new school – after a year of painful bullying while transitioning forced him to leave his old one.

It follows the story of fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris, a Black biracial teen who gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal public school in Ohio after transitioning. He joins the boys’ soccer team, makes new friends, and might even be falling for his religious teammate Justice. But no one at Spencer’s new school knows he’s 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.

A hopeful story that aims to encourage empathy through joy and understanding of the trans experience rather than exploiting the pain and suffering of trans people, The Passing Playbook belongs on your reading lists this summer.

Read an excerpt from The Passing Playbook below

The Passing Playbook won’t hit shelves until June 1, but those looking forward to the story can check out an exclusive excerpt right now!

"FourThe only sound in the car the next morning was Theo reciting the narration to the show on his tablet seconds before the narrator said it. When they finally reached Oakley, Spencer opened the door and got out without a word.Mom rolled down her window. “I’ll pick you up after AV club. Have a good day, sweetie.”Thanks, but I’ve got other plans, he thought. Plans that didn’t include AV club. He held tight to his backpack where he had hidden his boots last night. His PE kit would have to do for clothes.They were playing basketball in PE, which wasn’t Spencer’s favorite sport on the best of days. It didn’t help that he spent the whole period second-guessing his decision.He jumped when Coach Schilling pulled him aside after class and said, “Ready for tryouts, Harris?” It looked like he had actually brushed his hair that morning and put on better-fitting, less grungy sweatpants. He was still wearing the hoodigan.“Yeah, I’ll be there.”“Good man,” said Coach. He clapped a hand on Spencer’s shoulder. “See you after school.”#At lunchtime, the smell of burnt fish sticks and tater tots turned Spencer’s stomach. Or maybe it was just nerves as he searched for a place to sit and eat his lunch in the crowded cafeteria.He found an empty seat at the end of a table and opened his lunch, trying not to feel too sorry for himself, eating alone in a cafeteria full of people. His eyes settled on a long rectangular table where Justice, Macintosh, and a half dozen other boys sat. If everything went to plan that afternoon, soon he’d be sitting there too.With lunch over, he counted down the seconds until the end of the day. When the last bell finally rang, he decided to change in a bathroom stall instead of the locker room with the rest of the people trying out.By the time he made it outside, several boys were already there, passing the ball around the soccer pitch. He spotted Justice laughing after he nutmegged another player, sending the ball between his legs, sprinting behind him and picking the ball up again before the player even knew what happened.He sat in the grass and pulled on his old boots. He hadn’t worn them for at least a year and they pinched his toes. He hoped he had enough money saved to get new ones. Then a whistle blew from the pitch and he stood, wiping his sweaty palms on his shorts.He was usually a good kid. He didn’t have much choice. When Theo turned two, it became obvious that he was different—not bad, just different. At first, Spencer didn’t understand why Theo would have meltdowns if his peas touched his chicken nuggets, or when the seam in his socks rubbed his toes the wrong way. At his preschool open house, while the other toddlers sang a song, Theo stood on the bleachers with his eyes squeezed shut and his hands clasped tight over his ears.After that, his parents were so busy getting Theo tested, driving him to his speech pathologist, working with his occupational therapist, that Spencer was often left alone to do his own thing. With Theo, there was always something to worry about, so it fell to Spencer to make life easier for his parents. He didn’t want them to have to worry about two kids. Sure, sometimes his parents missed his games, and during his middle school graduation, Dad had to take a screaming Theo out of the auditorium before his name was called, but that didn’t bother Spencer. Too much. But when Spencer did screw up—maybe he forgot to do his homework, or talked back to a teacher—he could count on Theo doing something that would make his errors pale in comparison.But if he did this, and he wanted to, there was absolutely nothing Theo could do that would erase the fact that he deliberately disobeyed his parents. He’d have to be careful, he couldn’t get caught, and if he did, he had to make sure he had something to show for it: proof he could make the team.After a brief introduction and drills, Coach Schilling split them up into two teams to play a scrimmage, which disintegrated into complete chaos seconds after he blew his whistle with everyone playing like fourteen teams of one.Spencer soon found himself lost in a crush of players all fighting for the ball. The one time he did manage to get a touch, he was steamrollered by Travis, a human brick wall. He lay on the ground, thinking it would be more convenient to stay put.Coach Schilling’s voice boomed from the sidelines. “For heaven’s sake, you’re on the same team. Save that aggression for a real game.”Travis helped Spencer to his feet. “Sorry, are you okay?” His voice was surprisingly gentle.“Yeah, I’m fine.”Travis brushed grass clippings off his shoulder. Spencer’s knees buckled. The kid really didn’t know his own strength.“Thirty-second water break,” said Coach Schilling. His hair stood up in tufts from where he pulled it in frustration.Spencer got his bottle from his backpack and sprayed water into his mouth and assessed his performance. It was amazing how quickly his body had remembered how to play. He’d done well during the drills, but he needed to step it up in the scrimmage if he had any chance at making the team. Justice came up alongside him and grabbed his own water bottle from the bench.“I did try to warn you,” he said.“What are you talking about?” asked Spencer.“You’re being crushed out there. I can see it. Coach can see it. No shame in quitting.”Spencer stuffed his water bottle back into his backpack.“Screw you.” He walked back onto the pitch with renewed vigor.The scrimmage had taught him two things: One, he wasn’t the strongest or the fastest, but what Spencer could do was find open places that the other players didn’t see. Two, Justice underestimated him, which meant the others likely did too. He needed to use that to his advantage. Plus, with his small frame, he would probably be left unguarded most of the time anyway. So, when the game started up again, instead of getting crushed in the scuffle, Spencer paced around the field scanning for opportunities. His moment came when one of the players on the other team lost the ball and it whizzed past him. Spencer intercepted it and took off running toward the goal. He showed off his footwork, stepping over the ball to keep it from his opponents.Once he was in shooting range of goal, he looked up to see Cory, a tall, gangly Asian kid who was trying out for goalie, trembling between the posts. He reminded Spencer of a baby giraffe: leggy with no coordination. Spencer could take him. He dribbled forward, feinting right, then left, daring Cory to come off his line. When Cory moved forward, Spencer curled the ball across the goal to Micah, a Black boy who was a striker, meters away from an open goal.Micah drew back his foot and kicked the ball. It whooshed through the air and slammed into the goalpost.“God bless it, Jenkins,” yelled Coach Schilling. “How could you miss that?”Spencer understood Coach’s frustration, even if he didn’t understand his method of swearing. By Spencer’s count, they had a defender who couldn’t defend without fouling, and a striker who couldn’t hit a target three feet in front of him. What next? A goalie who couldn’t save?The ball rebounded in Justice’s direction. He controlled the ball, then glanced around to see who he could pass it to.“I’m open!” called Spencer.He read the conflict in Justice’s face. Justice hesitated, then flicked it to Spencer. It stuck to Spencer’s feet like Velcro. He locked eyes with Cory. But it wasn’t the face of a scared boy looking back. Instead, he saw his parents telling him he couldn’t play boys’ soccer. He saw Justice telling him he should quit. And he saw Coach in the team photograph last year, looking hollow in defeat, and the knowledge that he, Spencer, could be the missing puzzle piece to winning the League Cup.Spencer feinted left this time, then right, and smashed the ball into the back of the net."

Next. Dahlia Adler's Cool for the Summer is an ideal beach read. dark

The Passing Playbook hits shelves on June 1. Will you be giving it a look this summer? Sound off in the comments.