Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

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

stereotype because

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

estate speculation?

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.

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