If I see a book with a nonbinary protagonist, I will most likely pick it up. Unless it really doesn’t look like my type of thing. Which Bianca Torre is Afraid of Everything really was. From the summary alone, I was intrigued. This book sounded weird, wacky and funny, but it was a thriller with a nerd for a main character on top of all that. I was hyped to check this book out, and unsurprisingly, I had a great time with it.
Bianca is a bird-watching teenager with a long list of fears, including initiating conversation. Down to that, they spend most of their time watching birds and, eventually, people. But when they see someone murdered one night by someone wearing a plague mask, they know they must do something about it. With the help of their best friend, Anderson and later their crush, Elaine, Bianca starts to uncover a conspiracy weirder than they could’ve imagined. All while trying to figure out their identity and tackle their long list of fears.
I will admit that the bird-watching aspect threw me off slightly. It’s not that I think it’s weird because I love animals and seeing different birds and things out on walks. It just wasn’t something I expected to see in a YA thriller. It’s quite a niche hobby, yet Winans managed to weave it into the narrative smoothly.
So many things connect to birds in this novel, from the jokes to aspects of the mystery itself. It was cleverly done, and I found myself appreciating it. I might have liked to see a few more birds, but that’s more me wanting to picture cute animals than anything, ha!
Gender identity is an important aspect of this book. As someone nonbinary myself, it’s something that means something to me to read. I’m not a teenager anymore; I wasn’t even thinking much of my gender back when I was. Besides thinking over the term genderqueer and being overjoyed when a ‘guy’ – she’s since come out as a trans woman, but still – said I was a gay guy inside, it wasn’t on my mind. But some of the questions in this are relevant at any age. Not being cis is confusing; there are so many terms, and not all of them will fit. You wonder about coming out to people, specific pronouns make you wince, and it can be a wild mess. I felt for Bianca, I did, and I saw some of myself in them too. So that was glorious to read. I’m here for all the weeb enbies in fiction, ha!
So much of what stands out about this book is how wacky everything it is. The actual thriller side with the stakes was good. It felt weird but believable, making this book a super fast read. But it was the strangeness that made it such a fun read. I’ve never read anything like it before, but honestly? I’d pick up a book like this again.
If you see this book around and are unsure about it, I still suggest picking it up. It’s certainly one you won’t forget anytime soon.
Title: Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything
Editor: Justine Pucella Winans
Age Range: Young Adult
Publisher: Clarion Books / Harper360
Release Date: 27/4/23