3 out of 4 stars
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Eden was the poster child for what a model student should be: a straight A student, co-captain of the volleyball team, a scholarship shoo-in; she had her whole life set in stone. However, that didn’t stop her from wanting more. Something different from her mundane life. So when she wakes up one morning perfect-perfect hair, perfect eyes, perfect everything-like some kind of magic was bestowed upon her over night, she decides to run with it. For all she knew, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and Eden was going to make the most of it while it lasted.
Before she knew it, Eden was now dating her longtime crush Hawk, going to his best friend Ivy’s concerts, and doing other things that weren’t so vanilla-like buying a bikini! Sure trying to juggle her old life with her new one posed some challenges she wasn’t expecting, but it wasn’t nothing the new perfect Eden couldn’t handle. However, the consequences of her actions catch up to Eden when things unravel in a flash and now her old life is more of a distant memory. Well that’s fine, she thinks, perfect Eden only needed her perfect life anyway. Expect perfection wasn’t all that it was cracked out to be and now Eden must find a way to fix everything in her two lives before she ends up losing everything she loved in both of them forever.
Perfection and Other Illusive Things by J. Mercer is a young adult story about romance, friendship and self-discovery. It is told in the first-person perspective of Eden who, despite having a perfect life already, feels like there was something missing. She wants to expand her horizons and to be someone different than just the girl who always did what she was told.
On the surface, the story is very cliche and I found myself rolling my eyes at the beginning at its use of stereotyping what makes a person beautiful. Driving deeper into the book though, I came to appreciate what it was trying to do with the story. Change is a hard thing to do and it is even harder when it is yourself that you want to change and for what reason. Are you trying to change yourself because you want to become a better version of yourself or are you trying to change your identity for someone else to like you?
I liked how Eden wanted to become more independent and how she was scared to do so due to being super conscious about herself. Being told in the first person especially makes it very relatable since you are seeing her struggles through her own eyes and I can personally relate to them myself. However, I just didn’t like how quickly she decided to just throw her old life away and trust people she just met. She doesn’t think things through and it is sometimes hard to root for her as the main character. There are also moments in the book that feel very plot convenient just to have the story move forward and a lot of the characters’ choices and actions seem very hypocritical.
Another thing I had an issue with was this book did a lot more telling than showing. We know that Eden has this friend group, is amazing at volleyball, and is a star student but we never really get to see any of this in practice before her sudden magic makeover. Besides her friendship with Billie, it is hard to commit to things from her old life when all we really get to see is things from her new life. Why should we feel invested in things that she is losing when clearly she doesn’t and we weren’t shown anything to begin with?
Despite my criticisms, I did enjoy this book. One of my favorite things was Hawk’s character. He’s introduced to use as the loner archetype, the “bad-boy” per say, but he had some interesting takes on the world that went beyond what I thought his character was going to consist of. The same goes for his best friend, Ivy. Just because they are the new “bad influence” in Eden’s life doesn’t necessarily make them bad people. They live their lives differently compared to the norm of Eden’s former life and I found myself respecting it and that’s what this whole story comes down to: choice. It is about discovering who you want to be.
While I happened to not come across any spelling or grammar mistakes while reading this book, the spacing seemed to be all over the place when it came to the paragraphs. It goes back and forth from single to double tapped every other page with a paragraph at the very beginning of the book going from left aligned at the end of the page to center aligned at the beginning of the next. I personally didn’t find any major issue with this, with some people might not even catching this at all, but it is still something to take note of.
Overall, Perfection and Other Illusive Things isn’t anything groundbreaking but it is an enjoyable read about learning to love yourself for who you are and taking risks to finding out who that is if needed be. I give this book a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. It has its issues, but I believe it told the coming-of-age story it was trying to tell. It has some good messages that I feel that anyone can learn from who is trying to discover who they are as an individual. As a young adult novel, it has its share of profanity throughout the book but nothing too extreme beside an f-bomb being thrown in at the end of the book and some implications. I think Perfection and Other Illusive Things is a perfect read for high school students and young adults freshly out of college who are struggling to find their place in the world, or just anyone who needs help with self-identity issues, to read. Due to some of the profanity, I wouldn’t recommend letting a pre-teen read this though unless you trust them to understand what is going on, such as a theme of this novel explores.
Perfection and Other Illusive Things
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