Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve Book Review

Author Information

Ray Stoeve is a queer & nonbinary writer. They received a 2016-2017 Made at Hugo House Fellowship for their young adult fiction.

They are a contributor to Take The Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance, an anthology out now from Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic Books. Their first young adult novel, Between Perfect and Real, will be published by Amulet Books in April 2021, with a second standalone novel to follow.

When they’re not writing heartfelt queer stories, they can be found gardening, making art in other mediums, or hiking their beloved Pacific Northwest.

Book Description

Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?

Review

Thank you to the published for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Look for this book coming to your shelves April 27th.

You can pre-order this book at:

Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ IndieBound

Thoughts and Themes: This book I had been putting off reading because the center of the story was focused on Romeo and Juliet and I am not a Shakespeare fan. I really should have started this book sooner though since it was able to take me out of my reading slump. There is just so much to love in this book and you can tell by the amount of tabs I put into it. There is a sticky note that I literally just put if I could I would just highlight this whole page because of how much I related to it and was rooting for Dean.

I really liked the way that this story is told because of how much of myself I saw in it. I really related to some of Dean’s feelings about being Trans and how it affected his dating life. I also just love how there is one token straight friend in the group as that reminded me of my college life. I love that this book just shows how much queer people tend to gravitate towards each other and the safety that they find with one another.

My heart breaks several times in this story as Dean faces transphobia not just from his peers but from his family as well. There are scenes with Dean’s mother that I just had to put the book down because it hurt to read. I can’t say I’ve been there but I feel like what Dean’s mom is willing to voice is what is inside of my parent’s heads that they are not willing to put into words.

I really like how wholesome this book is, yes there are some conflicts and troubles that arise but overall its a heartwarming book. I really like the message that Dean learns in the end and how he learns that he is whole just by being himself.

I could go on and on about this book but I would rather leave it at this so you all can go read it.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters and I found them all loveable, well minus the bully you know. I even warmed up to the mom at some point even if she was hard to read at times. You get to meet each of these characters through Dean’s point of view and the interactions that they have with him.

I really liked the relationship that Dean has with his best friend Ronnie, and like the conversation that they have about their identities. I like how Ronnie points out to Dean that he doesn’t always understand him because he’s white for Dean to understand that he might want to talk about Trans things with other Trans people. I like how this conversation was brought up and how real it felt.

I also really liked the way that Dean and Zoe’s relationship is handled throughout this whole story. I liked the complexity that is included through this and how we get to see Zoe’s feelings but in the end it really isn’t about her. I thought that was the most important part to include when discussing their relationship, Dean’s transition was not about Zoe no matter how hurt she was.

Writing Style: This story is told through the perspective of Dean and is in first person. I think this is a great choice because it centers Dean and while we see other people’s feelings, we never center them. I love that in order to know how anyone is feeling they need to put it out there so there is no hiding. I thought that was a great choice because Dean now knows where everyone stands with him.

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