Sunday, May 8, 2011

Almost Perfect

 by Brian Katcher
Imagine yourself as an eighteen year old senior falling for a beautiful new girl in town.  She seems to like you and all is going well, but she has some sort of secret.  You can’t imagine what it is, but regardless, you like her just the same.  Then…. You kiss….. And the secret is revealed.  The one you thought was a she is really a he…..
That is what happens to Logan Witherspoon.  At first, he doesn’t want anything to do with her, Sage Hendricks.  However, he realizes that he misses her.  He decides that he can be friends with her.  This is very difficult for Logan though.  Sage is a girl in every regard, well except for THAT.  Logan has never encountered a transgendered person before.  He has no idea how he is feeling or how he should be feeling.  He begins to have tremendous internal conflict.  Does this mean he is gay?  If someone else finds out about Sage will they think they are gay?  Will he be able to stand up for her?  Does he need to explain his relationship to his family of friends?  One of his biggest questions is, can he be there for a friend when she needs him the most? 
This book was the winner of the 2011 Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award.  I must admit that I wasn’t exactly excited to read a book in this category.  I was definitely censoring myself.  I am thankful that I was forced to step outside of my comfort zone.  This book was very well written and speaks clearly about the issues that many face when a child or friend is struggling with transgender issues.
The characters in this novel were well developed.  Katcher did a great job engaging me with a book that I was honestly resistant to reading.  The characters and the problems associated with them were real.  Quite honestly, many today would prefer to look away and pretend that these issues aren’t real and then we don’t have to deal with them.  Unfortunately, life isn’t always so simple.  This is a great read for a variety of audiences.  It is great for kids to know that their feelings are real, they are not alone, and there are places to turn for information.  It is also good for adults to read.  As parents, we can put our children on brink of suicide with our emotional threats as we may try to convince them otherwise.  Clearly, this is a very sensitive issue while in the real world would require therapy for many to cope with.  However, this book provides some insights and causes the reader to think about this issue from a variety of perspectives.  Without a doubt this book has controversial and sensitive issues, but it is worth the read and conversation for some, not all.
There is an author’s note in the back that speaks directly to those people who can identify with Sage.  Those that are struggling with their identity and don’t know where to turn.  While Katcher was researching for this book he found that a common feeling was that of being alone.  Katcher offers some resources for those that are not able to reach out to a parent, counselor, clergyperson or a family friend.  He suggests contacting Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).  This resource provides information for gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as those who just have questions. 
Katcher also includes a warning.  “The Internet is full of great resources for transgender people.  It is also full of creeps who would love to meet a sexually confused teenager and take advantage of him or her.  Please remember, if you contact anyone online, NEVER GIVE YOUR REAL NAME OR HOME STATE.  Things are not always as they seem.  No matter how sincere someone sounds online, do not give them the benefit of the doubt.”

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