Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Book Review: Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Hello everyone! I hope you have all been doing well. This week I'll be sharing Perfect by Ellen Hopkins.

Everyone has something, someone, somewhere else that they’d rather be. For four high-school seniors, their goals of perfection are just as different as the paths they take to get there.

Cara’s parents’ unrealistic expectations have already sent her twin brother Conner spiraling toward suicide. For her, perfect means rejecting their ideals to take a chance on a new kind of love. Kendra covets the perfect face and body—no matter what surgeries and drugs she needs to get there. To score his perfect home run—on the field and off—Sean will sacrifice more than he can ever win back. And Andre realizes that to follow his heart and achieve his perfect performance, he’ll be living a life his ancestors would never understand.

Everyone wants to be perfect, but when perfection loses its meaning, how far will you go? What would you give up to be perfect?

I'm a physical-book type of reader, but like many of us I suspect, I've been shifting increasingly toward e-books during this time, and even more recently, toward audiobooks. While I've never been an avid audiobook listener, I decided this week to try listening to Perfect, as it was the only format I had available. As I soon discovered, Perfect is the perfect book to listen to (haha).

Ellen Hopkins has a distinctive verse style, and there is a rhythm to her writing that made me feel at times that I was listening to spoken word poetry, not just recited lines. Each chapter was like a mini podcast episode in each of the characters' lives, and I truly felt like I was inside their minds, listening to their inner monologues, hearing their words as they were meant to be imparted. I’ve read other Ellen Hopkins’ novels before, but listening added a whole new dimension to the story and a newfound appreciation for the structure of her writing.

Onto the actual plot of the story: Perfect provides windows into the interconnected and messy lives of Cara, Kendra, Sean, and Andre--four ordinary yet intricate individuals. The unglamorized description of their teenage experiences--fractured families, distorted body images, complicated relationships, obstacles in expressing love and identity, tragedies, and manipulation--share struggles so often glossed over in YA fiction. Each chapter is spent in the mind of one of the four protagonists, and for that time at least, you understand on some level their motivations, rationale, and desires, whether they be right or wrong. Their experiences are certainly not universal, but there is something inextricably real about their lives, something about their imperfections that makes them relatable nevertheless.

I really enjoyed listening to Perfect, and it was the reality and humanness of the characters that made this novel stand out to me. I would highly recommend it to fans of books like Dig (A.S. King) and Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson). One last note: Perfect is the companion novel of Impulse, and while I have not read the latter, Perfect seems to stand on its own.

Happy reading!

Find Perfect in the Monroe County Library System (Overdrive here), Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon

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