Between Perfect and Real is a wonderful YA novel about a trans boy finding himself.
So many topics and themes are covered in this book. We have the usual YA plotlines of teen angst, romantic relationships, friendships, gaining more independence, planning for the future, and trying to understand the world not only for yourself but also from the viewpoint of others. The coming-of-age scenario is familiar to all YA readers. Ray Stoeve executes this in a fully relatable and realistic manner, they don’t try too hard to make the characters ‘fit’ with many pre-conceived notions of how teenagers behave and I like this, individuality is to be celebrated rather than conformity in today’s world.
Alongside these ‘usual’ YA plotlines and backdrops we have Dean’s story. We see him feeling confused and unsure in regards to his identity and feelings. This is exasperated further due to his experiences throughout the book, his unaccepting mother, bullying, harassment, transphobia, purposeful misgendering, being outed by his girlfriend, and his body dysphoria. I really felt for Dean and the position he was in, his reactions to situations felt entirely realistic and justified. I loved that whilst he was maturing into adulthood and independence his teen side was still shown through the stomping off down the stairs and the ‘quick to react’ things he said to others in the heat of the moment.
I was glad that Dean had the support of Ronnie and Mr. Harrison, as well as the support group he joins and the new friends he makes there.
The concept of Dean exploring his identity through the role of Romeo in his school production was very apt. Due to societal and religious ideology and constraints back in Elizabethan England, many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed with an all-male cast, therefore, the female roles were played by men. I liked the nod to this, and it worked well in terms of Dean being able to explore his gender identity and provoke questions and reactions that move the story further.
I will be adding this book to my ever-growing list of LGBTQ titles available in my library.
Publishing April 2021.
Thank you to NetGalley and ABRAMS Kids for the e-arc to review.