Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: September 13th, 2011

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.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

As with all of Ellen's books, Perfect was beautiful, ugly, haunting, fierce, gritty, and tender.  If you have never read anything by Ellen Hopkins before, you can't understand how a book can be all of those things at once; if you have, you understand completely...  I read this book as soon as it came out, but I couldn't review it right away.  I always have a hard time articulating my feelings after reading Ellen's books, and this one was particularly difficult for me because, unlike Ellen's other books, I could relate personally. I had to let this digest for awhile, and then re-read it, before I could harness my emotions well enough to review it.  I think that of all Ellen's books, this one will be most relateable to the masses; the average middle-class teen may not have had a lot of personal experience with meth, prostitution, suicide, or sexual abuse, but I think most have felt the pressure to be more than they are capable of being.

The first book in this series, Impulse, is about teen suicide.  While fictional, everything about the book rings true.  The same is true of Perfect, the second book.  Perfect isn't a sequel, but a companion.  It doesn't start where Impulse leaves off, but rather, runs parallel to it, with common bonds.  Connor was one of the voices in Impulse, his twin sister, Cara, and ex-girlfriend, Kendra, are two of the voices in Perfect.  Impulse is about the kids who tried to kill themselves, what drove them to it, and their road to recovery.  Perfect is about the lengths the characters will go to in order to attain "perfection", all while struggling with the knowledge that it is unattainable.  What is sad about this is that none of these kids are doing it for themselves.  Their drive is based on the desire for acceptance from those around them- parents, peers, coaches, relatives, society.  It makes you want to reach into the book and squeeze their hands and tell them that they ARE perfect as long as they are being true to who they are.  It makes me want to be a better parent. (Honestly, I think all parents should read both books so they understand that even the smallest negative comments can be so emotionally damaging.)

This book was not an easy read.  Ellen Hopkins's books never are.  Rife with pain and angst, they could be a chore to read if not for the fact that they are written in Ellen's beautifully elegant verse.  She adds a touch of grace and delicacy to what are harsh and ugly topics.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  I'm probably not the person to ask this question of when it comes to Ellen's books.  I'm inclined to have kids read her books earlier than later because I think a lot of the lessons learned in her books are of more value BEFORE the kid encounters the issue at hand.  It's too late to read Crank if you're already hooked.  Impulse and Perfect won't help you realize that you're not alone in dealing with the pressures of high school if you've already crumbled under them.  I will MAKE my kids read Ellen's books in 7th or 8th grade, but judging from how many school libraries have banned Ellen's books, I would say that a great many adults disagree.  

1 comment:

  1. I've never had a desire to read an Ellen Hopkins book, even though my students LOVE them (I buy copies for them). This review, though, makes me want to go read this one because I think I'll definitely identify with it. Thanks for the review!


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