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Intersection of Life and Faith

Far From Perfect

  • Susan Ellingburg TheFish.com Contributing Writer
  • 2011 9 Sep
  • COMMENTS
Far From <i>Perfect</i>

Author: Ellen Hopkins

Title: Perfect  

Publisher: McElderry Books  

How far would you go to be perfect? In this poetic, heart-wrenching novel, four high school seniors find their own answers to that question. 

Cara's twin brother already gave up the fight, choosing attempted suicide over trying to meet his parents' unrealistic expectations. He's still alive (sort of), tucked away in a posh facility to recover.

Cara isn't allowed to tell anyone anything: God forbid someone should find out what happened and destroy the image of their picture-perfect family. So she soldiers on in her predestined path toward Stanford. Still, Cara wonders . . . "when did creating a flawless façade become a more vital goal than learning to love the person who lives inside your skin?"  

Cara's boyfriend is Sean, a baseball player whose goal in life is to score home runs on and off the field. He's got his and Cara's future all worked out. It will be perfect—unless Cara decides to vary from his plan and Sean's steroid intake drives him over the edge into madness. "Some people would say it's crazy, talking to someone you can't see," Sean muses, "But mostly he's decent company."  

Then there's Kendra, a beautiful blonde who's been groomed since birth to be a model—and will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. Absolutely. Nothing. Food is not necessary for her plan but plastic surgery is.

If Kendra's image is going to grace magazine covers, she has to be perfect. Fortunately, she can just about handle that thanks to "…that little bottle of dysfunction stashed in a sock in my dresser."  

Finally, there's Andre, pushed to become a business success like his parents and grandparents before him when all he wants to do is dance. He doesn't dare confess his dream to his parents, of course. "Perception is everything to Mom," he tells us, and a dancer in the family would not do at all. So he takes lessons behind their backs and hopes it'll all work out somehow.  

Ellen Hopkins has done a masterful job of weaving these four stories together—they narrate the book in turns as the plot marches inexorably forward. Perfect is not just poetic, it's poetry: laid out in verses, the elegant movement of the words on the page add to the heartbreak of young people trying to find their way in a hostile world.

These teens are so lost and so isolated in their prisons of expectation that it's no wonder when things go from bad to worse. A girl finds love in the arms of another girl, a boy teeters on the edge of sanity—while another steps off the edge. So much heartbreak and so little hope make this haunting novel anything but Perfect. 

CAUTIONS  

- Drugs/Alcohol: Abuse of steroids and prescription drugs,

-Language/Profanity: Quite a bit, including various terms for body parts and a liberal use of the f-word. 

-Sex/Nudity: Explicit sex, including boy/girl and girl/girl encounters.

-Spiritual Concerns: Cara attends Easter service with her parents, but finds the biblical story of resurrection hard to swallow. She apparently interprets the pastor's message of Christ's redeeming love as carte blanche to follow any lifestyle without eternal consequences.

*This article first published 9/27/2011