c_agano's review

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emotional hopeful inspiring sad medium-paced

5.0

emmm_reads's review

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  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

4.0


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anniekslibrary's review against another edition

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5.0

"The possibilities are endless."

What a perfect way to end such a perfectly real book. One of the themes of this book is that there's no one way to be trans; being trans comes with infinite possibilites. Dean's story highlights one of those possibilities, but also makes room for all of the others, in the way Dean debates what his transition should look like and the way so many other trans people are featured in this book - I loved the support group Dean went to!

I read this book in one sitting, I just could not put it down. Dean's story spoke to me so much and I loved reading a trans coming out story, we need them so badly!

CWs: transphobia, misgendering, homophobia, bullying, gender dysphoria, mention of a trans person's suicide, deadnaming of said trans person (which I'll admit is the one thing in this book I did find unnecessary and I wish it wasn't included)

jarka120's review against another edition

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5.0

I want to start by saying that one day this book will be very important to someone. The struggles faced by Dean throughout the story are sure to hit a cord with not just teens (or adults for that matter) struggling with their gender identity, but also with anyone who is struggling with their identity period. The story feels very real and honest and raw while still managing to remain accessible. There are clear struggles (romantic ones, friendship ones, family ones) but ultimately it is still a story about the importance of found family and finding friends who will do whatever they can to love and support you.

This is one of my favorite things I've read this year, and I can't wait for it to hit shelves next year so everyone else can experience it also.

domreadsall's review against another edition

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challenging hopeful reflective fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

When I heard that Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve was a YA contemporary novel revolving around a trans guy coming out with the help of Romeo and Juliet, I was immediately sold. Overall, I think the novel delivers on its premise and will be so, so important for younger trans guys who are grappling with their identity. 

Dean’s journey of grappling with his identity, his process of coming out, the struggles he faces in his relationships as he comes out, and the bullying he experiences are (in some cases unfortunately) real in a way that resonates. There is a lot of homophobia, transphobia, and bullying in this story that can be difficult to read at times, particularly as a queer trans person, but it’s an illuminating light on the types of challenges young trans kids can face. As a side note, while there is a focus on medical/physical transition in this novel and I’m a firm believer that medical transition isn’t necessary to define or validate your transness if you don’t want it for yourself, I think it’s incredibly important for those discussions to be had openly and frankly as they are in this novel. The more that gender affirming medical care is normalized, the more I hope that trans youth will be able to access it without the prejudice and obstacles they currently face.

One of my other favourite parts of this novel was the use of fiction (in this case, theater) as a vehicle for identity and gender exploration. Dean’s journey of claiming Romeo as his own with the support of some of his close friend was really heartwarming to read. Predictably, I loved the found family Dean ends up making for himself in the course of the novel, as it serves as a reminder that no matter who you are, you are valid and worthy of love and support. Characters are also allowed to make mistakes as they learn how to navigate coming out, both their own and that of someone they know, and I really appreciate that space being given.

I did have a few critiques. The ending of the novel felt incredibly rushed and unresolved, though I do tend to feel that way about a lot of YA endings so take it with a grain of salt. The romantic subplot felt underdeveloped to me, especially since I got the impression it was supposed to be a bigger source of conflict. I also wish the play itself had been more of a focus given the pitch. And, outside of Dean, many of the side characters felt a bit underdeveloped as well and I would have liked to see more of them.

In the end, Between Perfect and Real centered a believable and necessary journey of coming out as trans that reinforces the idea your personal identity can change and it’s no less valid if and when it does. Despite a few stumbling blocks in this debut, this will be such an important novel for many and I’m so glad it exists in the world.

Thank you to Amulet Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

canonicallychaotic's review against another edition

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4.0

thank you to netgalley and abrams kids for a free e-arc of between perfect and real in exchange for an honest review.

this book is going to mean a lot to someone one day.

i feel like i could say that for many (every) lgbtq+ book i read. but it’s worth saying. this book is going to mean a lot to someone one day, and i’m so glad it exists.

between perfect and real introduces us to dean who just wants to be himself as he is: a trans guy. but he is still trying to figure out how to do that, and what it means for him. it’s a story about coming into who you are, while coming out to others. about how dean had to perform every day of his life, until he is cast as romeo in the school play and for the first time feels like he isn’t acting.

this book had me from the first page, the first lines of the first chapter. and knowing that a kid out there one day can pick this up and see their thoughts on page and know that they’re not alone? that what they’re thinking matters? that’s so important. and it’s important that cis people (such as myself) are able to read these words and empathize as well.

a quick list of other things i enjoyed about this book: a cast diverse in sexuality and race! teenage characters that feel like teenagers! senior year stresses that i don’t miss at all! high school theatre that i miss everyday! theatre kids playing zip zap zop which is so integral to every theatre class!

other notes: this is stoeve’s ya debut, and it does at times come across as a debut novel in the witting. however, i look forward to stoeve’s growth and expect great work from them in the future!

booksthatburn's review against another edition

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emotional reflective slow-paced
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.0

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book.  

As a trans person this was stressful and difficult to read. Not because of inaccuracies (the dysphoria felt extremely realistic and very draining), but because it spends so much time dwelling on all the stuff that sucks and how dysphoric the MC feels that I didn’t feel like I got to know any of the other characters. I wish I'd gotten a sense of who his friends are separate from how they did or did not help him come out. Even conversations which weren’t about gender would often fade into an internal monologue as the MC either couldn't pay attention or actively tuned them out. Later on when he's a lot less dysphoric the non-transition conversations would get summaries and the transition-focused conversations would get full dialogue. When he finds a supportive space and starts to have other trans people to talk to him it felt good at first, but then it became clear that the book was setting up tension between him and his girlfriend by him not communicating well and her thinking that his friendships with the trans group were a threat to her relationship with him. For a book so good at depicting how to navigate various medical aspects of a transmasc experience it felt like it sacrificed any attempts at modeling healthy social transition. His girlfriend would probably have felt a lot less isolated and threatened by his new friendships if he’d been able to communicate more clearly with her. I understand that part of it is he's a teenager, and teenagers not doing the right thing is part of writing realistic teenagers, but I find it hard to believe that in the hours and hours of transition video footage he didn't look up anything on how to come out to his family, come out to friends, or come out to his girlfriend. Even a few lines about how he'd seen those and they weren't any help might have fixed it (I read an ARC, so I don't know if the final version has changes like this). 

It felt like the narrative had a very medicalized focus on transition. Pronoun etiquette aside (I appreciated that), almost every conversation about being trans had some piece about his body, trans bodies generally, binding, hormones, etc. And that’s a huge part of some people’s transitions, sure, but it meant that often the book felt like it was being trans 101 more than a story. But also, if you don’t know what I mean by “trans 101” “dysphoria”, “medicalized... transition”, or “pronoun etiquette”, then give this a try. It’s pretty accurate to one way transitioning can look and I hope it helps people. I read this as an ARC so it's possible some of my reservations were addressed in the final edit, but it would gut the book and turn it into an completely different narrative to refocus it away from the medical aspects of transition since that is so much of the plot.

Overall I'd recommend this as one transmasc perspective on navigating a lot of the more stressful parts of coming out, even if the MC isn't perfect at it. Seeing some things not work but it mostly ending up okay is really important. I do give the warning that there's a lot of dysphoric ideation and so this might be a stressful read for anyone with dysphoria or certain kinds of body dysmorphia.

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thiscubed's review against another edition

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I had to take a few days to piece together my thoughts or this review would've been something like "THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD" and, well, it is really good but I want to express how seen I felt by this book. Whether it was from the main character or side characters I just really felt represented by this book. For context, I'm a transmasculine enby who was a "tomboy" most of their life and had a mother who wasn't the fondest of that. Definitely not to the extreme that the mother in this book was, but I kinda always felt like I was disappointing her. Then I realized I was nonbinary and everything made more sense, but it was also harder because I felt more and more alienated to my body. No one really talks about how dysphoria usually gets WORSE after you figure out that you're trans and I appreciated that this book sort of touched on that. I also loved the euphoric moments, though. The feeling of seeing my chest flat for the first time was very similar to Dean's along with some other details.

In other words, this book really spoke to me and the casual inclusion of a nonbinary character who didn't feel ready for testosterone gave me life. I really hope this book helps the trans kids who deserve it.

biblioleah's review against another edition

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challenging emotional hopeful inspiring reflective slow-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

this is an important story for someone, i can already feel it. somebody will see themselves in this book, in the characters, and feel seen and at home. that’s something incredibly special, and although i had personal gripes with the pacing, i still cried several times and i still believe this is a solid debut and i’m excited to see it exist in our world.

pucksandpaperbacks's review against another edition

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5.0

CW: unsafe binding with duct tape, mention of death by suicide *not graphic*, transphobia, violence, fighting, deadnaming (name is not mentioned) and misgendering, outting, imposter syndrome, break-up, talk of hormones & testosterone, safe binding, unaccepting parent, feeling of body & social dysphoria on-page at 87%.

Dean Foster must be protected at all costs. I saw myself in Dean a lot as we both have a similar coming out story and are both skater boi's. Coming out after you're already out as a lesbian is an experience that I connect to and Dean's experience made me feel very comfortable and seen . He thought his coming out was over until he gets cast as Romeo in his high school's production of Romeo and Juliet and feelings of gender rise to the surface.

The feelings of dysphoria after realizing you're probably trans are SO REAL. Dean's experience of body dysphoria and imposter syndrome resonated with me and made me think back to my memories from the beginning of my transition. Between Perfect and Real is a great depiction of the trans male experience & coming of age story through the themes of Romeo and Juliet. Watching hours of YouTube and scrolling through trans Reddit pages are very real times in a trans man's life.

I loved Ronnie and Jared. Ronnie was a really great friend to Dean and he was someone I wished I had when I had first come out. I loved Ronnie, Jared, and Dean's dynamic toward the end of the novel and how they all hung out at a skatepark!! Dean is a SKATER BOI!

I also liked how transphobia was handled and challenged. Dean did not take any fucks from anyone including those closest to him. I also loved the support group aspect of the novel and how Dean made trans and gender non-conforming friends. Another aspect I could really relate to, seriously Dean's story was so similar to my own.

If I hadn't read an ARC copy, I would share some quotes that I loved because there were so many of them that I loved. There's a robot analogy that was SO GOOD and depicted the disassociation parts of dysphoria where you feel like a robot version of yourself.

The only minor flaw I have is that I never read a scene where Dean takes off his binder (unless I missed it?). I'm just a little wary about whether he was sleeping in it or not - which is dangerous and forbidden.

Overall, I really cherished Dean's story and it's definitely one of my favorites. As a theater fan, I really loved seeing a trans character be the star of the show and have an amazing teacher, Mr. Harrsion to come to when things hit the fan. Would recommend!