I’ve always thought that the greatest books are the ones that teach you something. There’s something to be said for a literary work that not only captivates your imagination but also fuels your intellectual fire. Unfortunately, books that truly school the reader are hard to come by. With that said, Ellen Hopkins has always been one of my favorite authors ever since I read her stellar debut novel, Crank. And even though I could read her books over and over again (and I have), I hadn’t been able to relate to the characters, no matter how beautifully they were described. So, when I read Perfect, I was expecting exactly what she had given me before: a magnificently written literary piece with stunning imagery and creative originality (which is nothing trivial) but for me, one that I’ve always struggled to relate to. Instead, what I found was a book with the elements that I have always adored paired with characters that felt as if they were directly connecting to the place I am in my life, the place that I think many teenagers are in as well.
Perfect is a book that focuses on the subtly intertwining lives of Cara, Kendra, Sean, and Andre and their like minded goals of achieving perfection and standing up to the forces that have dictated exactly what that entails. Cara is a girl who has struggled with lackluster parents ever since her all-star brother, Conner, attempted suicide. Perception is everything in her world and she struggles to blend her growing self-awareness with the expectations of others around her. Kendra, Conner’s ex-girlfriend, has dreams of attaining a high-fashion modeling profession, even if it means giving up food to get there. She is also trying to comprehend why Conner broke up with her while dealing with a struggling family dynamic. Sean is Cara’s extremely devoted boyfriend who imagines his impending life with her. In order to gain the life that he pictures with his girlfriend, Sean has to sacrifice more than he would have ever expected. Finally, Andre fantasizes about a future career as a dancer, all while maintaining the façade of his pretend life, one that is void of dance, to his parents. These four teenagers seamlessly share the narration in Perfect and the book focuses equally on their similar attempts at gaining perfection but also contrasts their completely different ways of attaining it.