Perfect by Ellen Hopkins
I haven’t read any Ellen Hopkins titles for awhile, and I forgot how emotionally wrenching they can be. This one was certainly no exception in terms of teenagers trying to make their way in a hostile world. Like she often does, the writer uses free verse poetry to tell four different yet overlapping stories in alternating chapters . Cara is coping with the suicide of her twin brother Conner, who finally cracked under their parents’ unreasonable expectations for their perfect off-spring. For Kendra, being perfect means having the perfect figure and face, even if it requires anorexia and plastic surgery. Sean want to have the perfect future, which in his mind includes an athletic scholarship to Stanford and Cara as his girlfriend. Andre’s parents are high achievers, a plastic surgeon and an investment banker, and expect him to follow in their footsteps, even though dancing is what makes his heart sing. Here’s how we meet Andre Marcus Kane III:
“Don’t Get Me Wrong
I do understand my parents wanting only
the best for me.
Am one hundred percent tuned to the concept
that life is a hell of a lot more enjoyable
with a fast-flowing
stream of money carrying you along.
I like driving a pricey car, wearing
clothes that feel
like they want to be next to my skin.
I love not having to be a living, breathing
of my color. Anytime I happen to think
about it, I am grateful to my grandparents
for their vision. Grateful
to my mom for her smarts, to my dad
for his bald ambition and yes, greed.
Not to mention
his real intuition. But I’m sick of being
pushed to follow in his footsteps. Real
Investment banking? Neither interests me.
Too much at risk, and when you lose,
you lose major.
I much prefer winning, even if it’s winning
small. I think more like my grandfather.
Andre Marcus Kane Sr.
Embraced the color of his skin, refused
to let it straightjacket him. He grew up in
the urban California
nightmare called Oakland, with its rutted
asphalt and crumbling cement and frozen
dreams, all within
sight of sprawling hillside mansions.
I’d look up at those houses, he told
me more than once,
and think to myself, no reason why
that can’t be me, living up there. No
reason why at all, except
getting sucked into the swamp.”
I loved this book, in fact, it’s one of my favorites from fall 2011. I think all teens can identify with the issues these four struggle with, even though the characters’ problems are taken to pretty extreme lengths. I recommend this to all young adult readers, with a special shout out the the Berkeley High Ellen Hopkins fans! By the way, this is the companion novel to Hopkins’ earlier title Impulse.