BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Between Perfect & Real by Ray Stoeve [in Booklist]

Debut novelist Ray Stoeve’s first chapter has three short sentences: “I think I might be trans. I mean, I know I am. I think.” Seattle high-school senior Dean already came out as lesbian, is lovingly partnered with Zoe, and has supportive friends (quality over quantity). When drama teacher Mr. Harrington surprisingly announces Dean as Romeo – “I took a chance with some of my casting decisions,” he explains – Dean finally has a part that seems to fit.

He/him pronouns, donning a young man’s suit that hangs just right, and suddenly Dean – and everyone else – can see his true self. How that “everyone else” reacts is another challenge, from a bully’s violence, an irresponsible school principal, Dean’s own toxic mother. “You don’t have to understand,” he insists. “You just have to accept it. I’m not going to change. I’m trans. I’m a boy.”

Stoeve and MW Cartozian Wilson’s collaboration turns out to be #OwnVoices perfect, except perhaps for Wilson’s not-so-British accent for London transplant Mr. Harrington. Unlike Romeo, though, Dean chooses to live.

Review“Media,” Booklist, July 2021

Readers: Young Adult

Published: 2021


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