A review by pucksandpaperbacks
Between Perfect and Real, by Ray Stoeve


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!