Margaret K. McElderry
Usually when I read a novel in verse, the first question I ask myself is: did the verse help or hurt the book? Was it the right decision for this story? In this case, I'm not quite sure. Verse tends to highlight the emotions of a novel while, just by the nature of it, skimming over many details of plot and, sometimes, characterization. And sometimes this works really well in Perfect while other times I wanted more information. There are a lot of very serious things that happen in this book - not only the obvious issues of the characters, but also the ways these issues show themselves. There were moments where the verse alone left me wondering about details that hadn't been explained fully.
Like I said, there's a lot to this book. A lot of events, a lot of characters, a lot of everything. And it's a big book, so it carries it well, but sometimes I just wanted to settle into one story. POV tended to change at pivotal moments, just as something big was about to happen, and it left me feeling restless. Though each character's journey covers some huge issues and the idea of perfection in different ways, the story I kept coming back to was Cara's family's story. With a twin brother, Conner, who has ended up in a psych hospital after a suicide attempt, Cara finds herself stepping out of what is expected of her more and more, daring to defy her strongwilled mother who cares only how things will appear to others. Cara and Conner's mother is a huge force in their stories (and Conner himself is a big force in every character's story) and because of these things I really wanted the book to go into the family's dysfunction in-depth, but it never did that. Strangely the most compelling characters were the ones who didn't get to narrate their stories. Andre's girlfriend and Conner are the two most interesting characters. While the things the main characters do and the ways they explain them seem almost textbook, there's a complexity and very real emotion when it comes to these two.
The relationships and ways the four characters are related are done very well, as is much of the dialogue, which makes me wish there was more dialogue and that it didn't have to be told in verse. As this is my first book by Ellen Hopkins, I don't have much of a reference point to jump from. It was just as dark as I was expecting, while not quite having the impact I was hoping for except in small doses. This is definitely going to be the exact right book for some readers, such as those dealing with figuring out their own idea of strength and perfection, but for me it didn't quite deliver as strongly as other books more narrowly focused on these topics have.