Brian Katcher is garnering a lot of attention with his second novel Almost Perfect, which recently won the American Library Association’s 2011 Stonewall Award for children’s and young adult literature.
The story follows the relationship between a teenage transgender girl named Sage and a straight boy named Logan who learns to be a more understanding and supportive friend to her.
After going through a difficult breakup, Logan is intrigued when Sage moves to his small hometown in Missouri and joins his biology class. Sage is cute, confident and quirky. As Logan gets to know her better, he becomes one of the few friends Sage has ever had, and she reveals to him that she is transgender. Logan’s initial reaction as well as his later attempts to understand are infiltrated with his own misconceptions and a fear of what other people would say if they found out. He is often selfish and ignorant, but learns a lot about himself as he watches Sage encounter obstacles in virtually every aspect of her life throughout the book.
Katcher writes the novel with a relaxed and entertaining flair, but also addresses important themes that both straight and LGBT teenagers may not think about enough. The language Katcher uses highlights the ways in which words can be extremely damaging and hurtful. Sage is called anti-gay slurs multiple times by Logan and others. When Logan remarks, “I guess I assumed you were a lot older when you decided you wanted to be a girl,” Sage frustratingly clarifies, “It wasn’t a decision, Logan…I realized I was a girl.” Nevertheless, Logan knows Sage is a girl and consistently refers to her and thinks of her as such, which creates a contrast with Sage’s unsupportive father later on, who talks about the shame he has in his “son.”
Katcher also educates his audience about the vast difficulties faced by transgender women and men. Sage often struggles with deciding when and whether to come out. She fights feelings of depression and suicide. She can’t always participate in casual social activities such as going to a club in the city with her friends, because they require identification that would reveal her identity without her consent. She takes hormones illegally to help her transition because they are more effective when taken before the end of puberty, which she calls a “catch-twenty-two situation” as she explains to Logan: “Hormones have to be prescribed by a psychiatrist, and most therapists won’t let you start until you’re in your midtwenties.”
Katcher’s writing is accessible and lighthearted as it discusses some very serious subjects. His use of strong supportive characters, such as Logan’s caring college sister and Sage’s unaccepting father, creates a vivid context for the plot. He also includes an author's note at the end of the book with additional information and resources for readers to continue learning about transgender issues. “Almost Perfect is exceptional. The writing is sensitive, haunting and revelatory,” said Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Award committee chair Lisa Johnston.
Brian Katcher’s debut novel Playing With Matches was published in 2008. GLAAD congratulates him on winning the 2011 ALA Stonewall Award for this well-written and inspiring book!