Friday, July 16, 2010

Almost Perfect, by Brian Katcher

Title:  Almost Perfect
Author:  Brian Katcher
Publisher:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Year:  2009
Genre:  Realistic Fiction
Age Group:  9th-12th Grade

Plot Summary: 
This cleanly written, moving novel tells the story of Logan, a high school senior living in a rural Missouri town.  He's just broken up with his girlfriend of three years after finding that she cheated on him, and he is feeling at a loss as to how to move on.  In biology he meets Sage, a rare new student to his tiny high school.  Sage is like no one he's ever met before-she is clever, and beautiful, and dresses as though she is living in St. Louis, not small town Missouri.  He quickly becomes infatuated with her, but there are signs that something decidedly different is going on with her.  Her younger sister is strangely overprotective, and her parents won't let her have friends, never mind dates.  As Logan and Sage get to know each other better, and their feelings for each other deepen, Sage finally lets him in on her secret-she was born biologically male.  Logan's world is rocked, as he struggles to deal with the questions about his own identity that come from finding out Sage's secret.  Is he gay?  Will he ever be able to love a "normal" girl?  But eventually Logan realizes that regardless of Sage's biological sex, he is falling in love with her, and when Sage is the victim of a hate-crime, Logan decides he will stop at nothing to be with the girl of his dreams.

If  Luna, by Julie Anne Peters, tells the story of a young male-to-female transgender person's decision to come out, then Almost Perfect tells what happens next.  When Sage made the decision to live as a female, her family was so ashamed that they homeschooled her for five years.  Her father applied for a transfer, and the whole family moved to small-town Missouri so that they could protect Sage from what they assumed would follow her decision, and to protect themselves from ridicule and judgement.  Katcher does not romanticize Sage's family in any way.  Her father is borderline abusive, and clearly feels betrayed by his "son's" gender identity.  Her mother loves her, but has no idea how to support her in her decision to transition to female.  Her sister is alternately embarrassed and protective of her.  By the time she meets Logan, Sage has started taking female hormones and "passes" easily as female.  Logan is just your average high school athlete.  Raised in a society that holds little value for homosexuality and none whatsoever for transgendered people, he is at first repulsed by Sage.  Again, the author does a good job of portraying Logan without too much sentimentality.  He struggles with his feelings after Sage shares her secret, and he says some truly horrible things to her.  Eventually, however, he comes to terms with his feelings for her, and they are able to share a very brief time together.  Just as Logan starts to feel that he would be able to have a true, public relationship with Sage, she is the victim of a vicious beating, and it becomes clear to everyone that while Logan and Sage may be ready, society is not.  This is a classic "star-crossed lovers" tale-true love is thwarted by circumstances beyond their control.

Katcher did an excellent job telling this story without sentimentality or sensationalism.  It is not preachy or pedantic-the simple truths revealed in this story have no need to cheap gimmicks, nor does the reader need to be beaten over the head with them, for this novel to resonate with meaning.  This book helped me remember again that while I may not understand the feelings that lead someone to be transgendered, that doesn't really matter.  What matters is that I recognize each individual's right for self-naming, their right to live their lives fully as the people they believe themselves to be.

Teacher Resources: 
While I did not find any specific lesson plans or activities for this novel, I've listed some resources about teaching GLBT issues in the classroom below.

GLBT Stereotypes Lesson Plan 

Advocates for Youth 

Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network 

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