“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?”
Thoughts: What does it mean to be perfect? The definition is as varied as the individuals trying to define it. Yet, in all instances, a person’s desire for perfection can lead to the exact opposite. Such is the lesson learned in Ellen Hopkins’ Perfect. Told through four different narrators each with their own professed goals, the drive to be perfect is pervasive no matter socioeconomic class or experiences. Readers from all backgrounds will be able to relate to at least one of the narrators. It is this personal connection that builds between the reader and at least one narrator which drives home the message of the infeasibility of perfection and the damage that ensues when trying to achieve it. As someone struggling with a mild form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Perfect struck a chord and mirrored some of my own inabilities to let go of the unattainable. Ellen Hopkins’ style is breezy, and she successfully sustains the four distinct voices of the narrators. More importantly, she maintains an appropriate level of gravitas for the situations described. The resulting novel is one that is shocking, poignant, and hits close to home.
Acknowledgements: Mine. All mine.
“Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth.”
Thoughts: Speak is a powerful and poignant novel about peer pressure, the need to fit in, and the lengths to which people will go to achieve the required social status. As a disenfranchised teen with a terrible secret, Melinda’s social status as the high school pariah is extremely disturbing because it only reaffirms her decision to remain silent while simultaneously heartbreaking because of the needlessness of the entire situation. There is nothing about Melinda’s experiences that is easy, and the effects of those experiences are appropriately complicated. It is up to the reader to discover the hidden truths behind Melinda’s actions while she unconsciously seeks solace and closure. Laurie Halse Anderson has made a name for herself by becoming the voice for hundreds of thousands of suffering teenagers who are afraid to let themselves be heard. In Speak, she brings to the fore the silent victims of date rape. It is a book that deserves to be read and discussed with every teenager in order to allow all victims the chance to be heard.
Acknowledgements: Mine. All mine.