Friday, April 12, 2013

Book review: Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

Logan Witherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. But things start to look up when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Sage Hendricks befriends Logan at a time when he no longer trusts or believes in people. Sage has been homeschooled for a number of years and her parents have forbidden her to date anyone, but she won’t tell Logan why. One day, Logan acts on his growing feelings for Sage. Moments later, he wishes he never had. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy. Enraged, frightened, and feeling betrayed, Logan lashes out at Sage and disowns her. 

But once Logan comes to terms with what happened, he reaches out to Sage in an attempt to understand her situation. But Logan has no idea how rocky the road back to friendship will be.

I had mixed feelings about Almost Perfect.  Mostly about the main character.  While it would be a very boring book to just have him accept Sage right away and be done with it, I had very little sympathy for him even though it seems like we're supposed to in the end.  The entire plot consists of Logan liking Sage, then finding out she's transgender, then hating her, then liking her.  The like-hate cycle repeats throughout the book and is the main conflict.  There are asides, such as Sage's parents being ambivalent/unaccepting of her status as transgender, but that's another problem with it.

The author's note in the back of the book says that Katcher talked to actual transgender teens and a lot of the things that happen in the book were taken from their real experiences, but I feel like he just put them in without putting in the emotional impact that would've gone with them.  While not being an entirely bad person, Sage's father is the standard 'doesn't get it' parent any teen with an alternate sexuality or gender identity is afraid of having.  As I stated before, there wasn't much sympathy coming from me for Logan and his perpetual acceptance-non-acceptance cycle.  In the end he swears that he'll stick with Sage and honor her wishes no matter what, but he said that before, too.  In the end, when Sage isn't there to graduate with the rest of the class, Logan goes on about how she clearly had an impact on everyone when that isn't really shown at all beyond him and his small group of friends.

I guess in the end, I mostly feel like Katcher tried to create a realistic and emotional story, but he didn't spend enough time thinking about the emotional part that would help people connect with what happens to Sage and Logan.  It was a nice effort, but it fell sadly short.