Review of Between Perfect and Real

Between Perfect and Real
by Ray Stoeve 
High School    Amulet/Abrams    304 pp.    g 
4/21    978-1-4197-4601-7    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-68335-951-7    $15.54 

Until senior year, seventeen-year-old Dean had identified as a “tomboy lesbian” but now increasingly identifies as a guy. When a forward-looking theater teacher casts him as Romeo in a production of Romeo and Juliet, Dean, who finally feels like himself in the role, comes out as transgender. Each new step — changing his pronouns, getting a chest binder — makes him feel more comfortable in his body, as does acceptance by his best friend and the new friends he makes in a support group. But his relationship with his girlfriend deteriorates (she’s a lesbian who, understandably, struggles with Dean’s transition: “I don’t want to be some guy’s girlfriend”), and he worries about how his parents will react. Dean authentically and accessibly describes his experience as a trans man; his body, for example, “literally doesn’t fit me. Like it’s a piece of clothing that shrank in the dryer. It’s not terrible most of the time, but it’s weird.” Dean’s story demonstrates the courage that it takes to come out: he faces loneliness, a breakup, and bullying, and knows that it could be even worse (the film Boys Don’t Cry helped Dean understand that he was trans). But by year’s end, he sees freedom and possibility in life after high school: “I’m closer to being myself than I ever have been…I wouldn’t trade who I am for anything.”

From the July/August 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Rachel L. Kerns

Rachel L. Kerns is a project manager for an educational publisher. She holds a master’s degree in library and information science from Simmons College.

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