Katcher, Brian. (2009). Almost Perfect. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.
Note: this review contains spoilers, but no more than the book jacket does.
Almost Perfect is a complicated love story- complicated first because it’s from the point of view of a boy and geared toward teen boys, and second because the love interest is a transgender girl. The protagonist, Logan, is a very typical young man in many ways: he’s socially awkward, broody, and talks about dude things with his dude friends. The dialogue and inner thoughts are very believable, and Logan is a likeable character. When a new girl, Sage, moves to town, Logan is taken with her quirky fashion sense and confident personality. They quickly become friends, although Sage is very mysterious about her family and background.
The two become closer and closer and finally the inevitable kiss happens, but is followed by Sage’s disclosure that she is transgender. The scene is heartbreaking; Logan’s sudden panic that he might not be straight, violent thoughts, and feelings of betrayal are painful and I’m sure the scene is very familiar to any non-cis person on the other side of the situation. I found myself saddened and upset about the scene. It’s certainly realistic, and I’m glad that the trans* panic stopped short of actual physical violence, but I yearn for a day when this is not the immediate and common reaction.
Through the rest of the book, Logan wrestles with confusion about his sexual orientation, anxiety that people might find out, and a mixture of revulsion and continuing sexual/romantic attraction toward Sage. Eventually, they pick up their friendship again and Logan realizes that he loves her (and some tender and non-graphic sexytimes commence), but his fear about societal repercussions as well as his utter disgust with her genitals ultimately destroys their relationship.
Because this book is written in the voice of a straight, cisgender teen and contains many potentially triggering scenes, I think Almost Perfect requires a trigger warning or content note. While trans* readers might appreciate the honesty in the telling, much of the language used by the protagonist is very hurtful, and there are scenes of violence and verbal aggression.
It’s worth noting that the author, Brian Katcher, is very outspoken about LGBTQ issues. His professional blog has a lot of great discussion and news posts around political and social current events, and he has reviewed other LGBTQ novels. In addition, he includes an author’s note at the end of the book offering some great resources for transgender youth, as well as acknowledgment of the help he received from trans* folks willing to tell him their stories. The book has clearly been very well-researched and the author cares a lot about the subject matter and readership.
Almost Perfect won the 2011 Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award and made the American Library Association’s 2010 list of Best Books for Young Adults.