Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

From inside the cover:

"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 them. 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?"

Ellen Hopkins is a master at capturing teen angst at its worst, and at writting lyrical free verse poetry that really doesn't read like poetry. I'm the first to admit that I am not a fan of reading poetry, which initially turned me off of Hopkins' books. But, I have been hooked since reading Crank, and I have now read everything she has written. Oh wait, she just released Triangles, her first adult novel. *requesting it from the library right now*. Anyway, don't let the poetry and length of books (between 600-700 pages each) keep you from reading them. This book, a companion to Impulse, did not disappoint.

First, there's Cara. Her twin brother attempted suicide. Her parents are cold, distant, and won't settle for less than perfection from their children. Cara is tired of trying to be something she's not. Meeting Dani, she realizes the truth about herself and her sexuality, and now she has to deal with the aftermath of her revelations. I liked her character. Comparatively speaking, she was one of the teens with the healthiest choices. I liked that once she realized the truth about herself, she didn't try to change herself.

Next, there is Sean. He is a major jock who is obsessed with being the athletic best. He has his sights on playing pro ball, and will stop at nothing to reach his goal. So, he turns to steroids to boost his game. He was in love with Cara, and they dated until she realized that she was gay. What I did like about Sean, was that he was truly in love with her, and was totally committed to her when they were together. He even wanted to marry her. What I did not like, of course, was that he turned to drug use. And the steroids completely changed his personality. He was a good example of how drugs can destroy the mind of an otherwise nice person.

Next, there is Kendra and her sister, Jenna. Kendra is anorexic and obsessed with her dream of being a runway model. Her mother encourages this, choosing to turn a blind eye to her daughter's eating disorder and even allowing plastic surgery. Kendra will stop at nothing to get what she wants, compromising her morality, her health, her life. Jenna, on the other hand, is very happy and confident with her size 10 body, and chooses to flaunt it. Because she grew up without a positive male role model, she now seeks attention from every guy she comes across. She also chooses to drown her bitterness with alcohol and drugs. I really felt bad for Kendra. Her mother is obsessed with physical appearance, she suffered physical abuse at the hand of her father, and her boyfriend (Cara's brother) cheated on her with a woman twice their age and then attempted suicide. I had a hard time feeling sorry for Jenna though. She just was not a likeable character to me. Kendra's behaviors were obviously not good choices, but she was trying to be a good person, just going about it the wrong way. I felt like Jenna knew exactly what she was doing, and...I don't know, I just didn't like her.

Finally, there's Andre. I have to say he was my favorite. And really, he was the most "normal" of the bunch. He didn't drink, do drugs, sleep around, or have mental problems. Despite the fact that his parents were obsessed with money - his mom is a plastic surgeon and his dad is a businessman - and their view of success and forced their ideas on him. But, what he wants to do is dance. The poor guy has to sneak around taking lessons, because when he tried to talk to his dad about it, he accused his own son of being gay (which he's not). Then he meets Jenna, and falls in love with her (why...I don't know). But Jenna is using him. He really tries to take care of her, but he finally realizes that she is just not willing to commit. He also has to deal with racism (especially from Jenna's father, who is one step away from the KKK). He is definitely the strongest character and stays true to himself.

Overall, another great work by Ellen Hopkins. Is it a light, happy read? No. Nor do I think it's appropriate for under the age of 16. Drug use, language, rape, homosexuality, sex, eating disorders, suicide...if you are squeamish about any of these things, this might not be the book for you. Unfortunately, these are things that today's teens are dealing with more and more. It was a great read, and I will definitely keep reading her books. I gave it another 5 out of 5 stars.


lillylilac said...

I love your review. I think the appeal of the jenna character is that she's a bit of a mystery and we don't have her point of view so we only have her actions to go on so we're not really sure why she does what she does. I do agree that Jenna knows exactly what she's doing which just makes her seem more interesting to me. I honestly can't blame all of Sean's horribliness on drugs because while I'm sure the drugs amplified his negative traits they didn't invent them, their part of him. If you want to read more of my thoughts on this book you can look at my blog were I also reviewed.

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