640 pp. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
Source: ARC received from the publisher
Release Date: September 13, 2011
Summary (From Goodreads): 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 have understood.
Everyone wants to be perfect, but when perfection loses its meaning, how far will you go? What would you give up to be perfect?
A riveting and startling companion to the bestselling Impulse, Ellen Hopkins’s Perfect exposes the harsh truths about what it takes to grow up and grow into our own skins, our own selves.
The first thing I want to bring up in this review is that if you haven’t yet read Impulse you’ll want to wait to read Perfect. Many companion novels have related characters and/or settings and can usually be read without reading the companion. Perfect, however, takes place at the same time as Impulse following Conner’s twin sister, Cara and other characters. I even thought about reading Impulse again once I made this realization about the story.
I love all of Ellen Hopkins’ novels, especially Impulse and Burned, but Perfect may be her best novel yet. The four characters we follow are developed extremely well, each with their own unique voice. At one point I marked my page, set the book down for a bit, and when I came back I couldn’t remember which character I was reading. As soon as I started reading the page I knew it was Sean because his voice is that clear in the novel. Not only are the characters distinguishable, I loved that so many different issues are addressed. I’ve been making a conscious effort to read more LGBT novels, so I was pleasantly surprised to find Cara realizing her sexual identity. Cara’s navigation through these new experiences is done with care and grace. I didn’t expect Andre to be a dancer, but that’s something I really appreciated because I can’t say that I’ve read any novels portraying a straight teenage guy who loves to dance. This works well into the idea of being “perfect” because of the many different gender expectations there are. Both Andre and Cara are dealing with developing identities that aren’t accepted by their family or understood by society. Sean and Kendra want physical perfection among other things. Kendra is dealing with what happened to Conner and trying to gain some control over her life. The only way she can do that is by controlling how she looks and what she eats. Sean has lost his dad which has left a large hole in his life. He still wants to make his father proud, so he delves into the world of steroids so he can be the best baseball player he can.
Like always, the verse is superb. As one character’s point of view ends, the next character’s point of view begins with a phrase or saying something similar that the last character just said. For example, one of Cara’s sections ends with “Somewhere deep. Dark. Empty.” On the next page Kendra’s section begins with “Empty is the perfect state of being.” Ellen Hopkins has been doing this in a variety of ways with her last couple of novels. She makes it look so easy, but I can’t imagine it is. I think you’d really need to know your writing style and your characters to make them connect this way. Also, like many of her multiple point of view novels, these characters connect and mesh in a variety of ways. One example of this that I especially enjoyed is how Andre and Kendra connect through Kendra’s sister Jenna. Jenna doesn’t have her own section in Perfect, but I felt like I knew her character well because of Kendra and Andre.
I couldn’t put Perfect down, and when I had to, I couldn’t stop thinking about what was happening to the characters. Seriously, this book is amazing and a must read. It comes out tomorrow, so I hope you’ll get a copy!