Picture (Im)perfect - J.S. Frankel

At a swim meet, star of the Portland High Swim Crew Nolan Goodman meets Mia Swarva, another swimmer from rival Leeside High. Sparks fly and they start going out on dates. Nolan decides that he has found his perfect girl. Everything was going well and then Mia discloses that she was born Mark…

J.S. Frankel’s novel is a sensitive and moving portrayal of what it is like to be a transgender teenager in a modern society where ideas about gender and sexuality are so defined that anything beyond those definitions and labels are considered abnormal, unnatural and an outrage against nature and religion. Aside from gender and sexuality, the novel also touches on other issues like the dangers of social media, bigotry and personal agenda.

The story is told from Nolan’s point of view instead of Mia’s. It was an interesting choice though and I think it was a good move on the author’s part to have Nolan as the narrator. Through his eyes and mind, the reader gets to know what he – as a straight guy – sees and feels about Mia before and after her revelation. I want to make it clear that Mia’s role and character is not secondary to Nolan’s. Far from it. Her story is as much as Nolan’s.

Both Nolan and Mia are endearing in their own right. Their characterization was well-thought of as well as those of the other characters. The writing was spot on with dialogs that are crisp, witty and laced with humor at times.  Emotions displayed by everyone were also palpable. I could feel Nolan’s love and connection for Mia. I felt sad at Mia’s plight. I felt her rage and frustrations too at the treatment she was getting from those around her especially towards the second half of the book when her “secret” was accidentally displayed on the world wide web! I felt the intimacy of friendship among Nolan’s circle and the loving support that only a mother like Nolan’s and Mia’s could give. I even felt for characters like Mason and Charlie – disappointment over the former’s narrow-minded attitude towards gays and sympathy for the latter’s resignation to his mother’s controlling ways.

All in all, Picture (Im)Perfect was a perfect read for me. It was an eye-opener as well and made me look again deeper into the complexity and diversity of the human race. Whether white, black, Christian, atheist, gay, straight, lesbian or transgender, etc. – we are, in essence, all human and we each deserve to be happy, to pursue and fulfill our dreams, to live our life the way we see fit without endangering others and to choose who we want to stay by our side and in our hearts.



*i received a copy for review