Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kid Konnection: Perfect

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to feature a very powerful book that was written in prose.

Summary: 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. - McElderry Books

Ever since I met author Ellen Hopkins at last year's BEA, I have wanted to read one of her books. I decided to begin with her young adult PERFECT mainly because I've heard so many wonderful things about it. Kathy (aka BermudaOnion) just raved about this book, so on one hand, I was very excited to read it; however, on the other hand, I was just a little bit worried that she built it up too much in my mind. I had extremely high expectations...

I am so very happy to say that I loved PERFECT -- just as much as Kathy. In fact, I sat down one afternoon and got so caught up in these characters' lives that I read it in one sitting, and that's not an easy feat when a book is over 600 pages. I rarely have the time (or attention span) to do that with a book, but I just couldn't put down this novel. I was riveted to the drama of these kids' lives as well as Ms. Hopkins' truly amazing writing style, and I immediately began wondering if I shouldn't read everything she's ever written. I was that impressed!

PERFECT is such a unique book and one that deeply affected me. It deals with the lives of four high school seniors who are all aiming for perfection in some way. Whether it's aiming for the perfect appearance, living up to their parents' expectations, discovering their sexuality, or getting into the right college, these children (yes high school seniors are definitely still kids!) were trying to deal with all of the pressure in their lives. Honestly, those issues that I mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. This book delved into so many other relevant topics that affects teens' lives, and I was extremely impressed with just how much Ms. Hopkins addressed in this book.

What made this book even more special is how Ms. Hopkins chose to tell these kids' stories. She wrote this entire book (remember it's over 600 pages) in free verse... and it was incredibly powerful. The sections alternated between the various characters' voices, and I appreciated how some of the "poems" also had messages when you read the first letters vertically. Truly, the presentation was so creative! There were so many parts that I stopped and re-read because they were so beautiful, and I honestly do not have the words to express how much I enjoyed reading this novel. I loved how the author managed to capture the essence of each character in their own voice, but she also managed to convey the emotions, and especially the pain, that they were experiencing.

As a mother, PERFECT kind of scared the heck out of me. I hope that my children never experience half of what the characters in this book did, but I do know that many of the issues in PERFECT will be present in our lives -- whether it's our own family or some people we know. I do not consider my overly naive, but these four kids were trying to handle so many pressures of the outside world, and I just want to protect my own children from the pain. I think that reading PERFECT might have helped me to be a better mother because it made me conscious of the extra-pressure that I put on my children. While I might not be able to control my children's own tendencies to perfection, I can hopefully control some of the stresses that I might add. And if I'm being truly reflective, I probably shouldn't set my standards quite as high for myself either. There is little doubt that I am a perfectionist and I could benefit from a lot of the messages in this book.

PERFECT is definitely geared towards an older YA audience. This book not only deals with some very serious issues, but there is also lots of content that's more suitable for mature readers (i.e. sex, drugs, language, etc.) Needless to say, I won't be passing this one on to Booking Daughter for a few more years. Having said that, I do want to read and discuss PERFECT with her one day. This book is wonderful for discussion because it brings to light so many of those problems that aren't always easy to just bring up in casual conversation.

I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed PERFECT. It's one of those books that is just so powerful and has the ability to make you see the world around you a little differently. Highly recommended!

By the way, I was so excited to learn that PERFECT is a companion novel to IMPULSE. Guess what I need to read soon!

I received a copy of this novel from a very good friend.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


bermudaonion said...

I'm so glad you loved this book as much as I did! I'm reading Impulse right now and, so far, it's fantastic too!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I've tried reading novels written in free verse but I have a hard time with them. I guess I'm prejudiced or something, and should work on that!

Unknown said...

I must have missed Kathy's review, so thank you for bringng PERFECT to my attention! Reading a 600 pg novel in one sitting says a lot!

Karlie said...

I should really start reading YA! There are just so many good books out there...