Title: Almost Perfect
Author: Brian Katcher
Published: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2009
Awards: Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award, 2011
Summary: Logan Winchester is still reeling from being cheated on and subsequently dumped by ex-girlfriend Brenda when new girl Sage Hendricks moves into town. Logan is perplexed when he learns that Sage is not allowed to date and was home-schooled from eighth grade to the present. Her mysterious circumstances are revealed when, after sharing a first kiss, Sage reveals that she is physically male. Logan is outraged at this revelation, but the last few months of their senior year will bring plenty more hurdles for both Logan and Sage as they grapple to figure out what they mean to each other and struggle to keep Sage’s “condition” a secret.
Analysis: This book started out like several others that I had began reading: love-sick teenage boy chasing after an extraverted, mysterious female. I was disappointed to know from the back cover that Sage was transgender, as the secret is not revealed to Logan until several chapters in. As a reader, I would have preferred to be surprised, but I understand where the theme needs to be advertised with the book to reach the audience that most needs this book. (I can also imagine several complaints and challenges if a reader checked out the book and was later surprised by its content.) Still, it was a little disappointing and made me think, “Just SAY IT already.”
Past this scene though, the story picks up in pace and gets to the heart of the message. Personally, I am thankful I picked up this book because I feel that I needed to make the journey with Logan from shock, disbelief, and, frankly, a bit of awkward avoidance, to one of understanding and acceptance. Gay marriage has been a huge issue in the news, and homosexuality is slowly becoming more accepted, but transgendered individuals do not always seem to find the same acceptance, even within the LGBT community. Beyond knowing that this book exists and being able to put it in the hands of those that might need it, confronting my own personal biases and misunderstandings about this group of people is important for creating a climate of tolerance within the library. Every person deserves to see him- or herself portrayed in works of literature, and I think that this one makes a great stride in that arena.
Logan is certainly not blameless in the story-he comes close to reacting violently when Sage reveals her secret, and his white-hot anger and disgust is evident. His wavering faithfulness to Sage, denial of his attraction to her, and shame at caring for someone so different is painful to read, but it feels authentic. It causes the reader to take a stance and sympathize with Logan or despise him-most likely a little of each at varying points throughout the novel. At times the novel is tense and emotionally draining, but the real-life circumstances are likely the same.
Overall, I find very little to fault with this book, although I will be the first to point out that I cannot vouch for its accuracy. I have read mixed reviews of those who consider it to be too stereotypical and tell a tragic, somewhat cliche narrative for the subject. Personally I will have to read a few others from this genre before I can criticize. I hope that this book would be helpful for those who are considering transition or in the process thereof, but I am fairly confident that it would at least be helpful to the friends and family members of transgender individuals. All I know for sure is that this is a book that will stay with me for several days.