Review: Perfect

“April used to be my sister. She used to be nine, and charming. […] Now Ape Face is ten and everything is different.” p. 3

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Perfect by Natasha Friend.
Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis MN, 2004, reprinted Scholastic, NY, 2006.
Realistic fiction, 172 pages + extras.
Lexile: 590L
AR Level: 3.5 (worth 5.0 points)

Isabelle Lee cannot believe her mom is forcing her to go to group therapy.  Sure, her little sister caught her throwing up one time, but it’s not like she isn’t handling her dad’s death just fine.  Then pretty, popular, smart, wealthy Ashley Barnum walks into group, and Isabelle knows there has to be a mistake.  Because Ashley is perfect – every girl wants to be her and every guy wants to date her.  But as sessions pass, Isabelle starts seeing the cracks in Ashley’s, and her own, life.

perfect-by-natasha-friend

This was a pretty random choice.  Some of my students were reading it so I wanted to see why it was so popular.  I’m glad I read this library book because I definitely won’t be checking this out to fourth or even most fifth graders.  This is a fast-paced novel and very realistic.

It is, if the pink cover didn’t give it away, aimed entirely at girls.  The one male character who has any plot is mainly a joke.  Most of the book focuses on Isabelle’s relationship with her sister April, mother, and friend Ashley.  Her aunt and female cousin, and other friends from school and group therapy are also present.  Isabelle’s feelings towards April have become downright hostile and violent ever since April reported that Isabelle was forcing herself to throw up.  While at first Isabelle and April comforted each other, now all three women in the house have huge disconnections.

This book could definitely be a trigger for students who suffer from eating disorders or have in the past.  The descriptions of food made me hungry every time I picked it up.

One unexpected aspect I really enjoyed was the Jewish subplot.  Isabelle’s father was Jewish, but when he died her mother not only removed all photographs of him, they also stopped celebrating Jewish holidays and traditions.  Part of the book deals with the very real loss these three non-Jewish women face by ignoring the traditions that had become important to their family.

Beyond that and the disorders, this book is not very diverse.  White-bread all the way as well as the in-built assumption that all characters are white and straight.  It’s starting to annoy me that most of the “disability” books I see are all about straight white people.

There is a section after the novel with some basic tips on healthy body image as well as information about and help for those with eating disorders.  I’m glad this was included to point readers in the right direction if they want or need to know more.

This book is suitable for middle or high schoolers but I wouldn’t recommend it for younger students (despite the lower reading level) because of the many depictions of eating disorders which can at times get a little graphic as well as a few incongruous scenes where the girls drink Ashley’s father’s alcohol during sleepovers at her house.

Older students might relate to this book if they struggle with an eating disorder, have lost a parent, come from families that don’t easily express emotions, or have a parent struggling with depression.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

7 thoughts on “Review: Perfect”

  1. It’s interesting that boys do not have any significant roles in the book. This shouldn’t turn boys away from reading it, of course, but it looks like that’s what the book may be trying to do, what with the whole pink cover and everything.
    Disability in kidlit is still very centered on white people. Books about disabilities/disorders are my least-read kinds of books. I’m still trying to be better about and it’s one of my goals in 2017, but will definitely be seeking intersectionality in these kinds of books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This definitely was one of the most female-centric books I’ve ever read. While Isabelle’s dad is a looming shadow over their lives, every other male was written dismissively – it was the weakest part of the book.

      Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind probably features a black character (since most of her novels do) but I haven’t read it yet. I honestly cannot think of any other book about disability, whether non-fiction or fiction, that is written by or features a character of color, and I am pretty decently read in this area thanks to a previous job. So I have nothing to recommend, but if you find anything, I’d love to hear about it!

      Like

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