Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Escaping Perfect by Emma Harrison

Escaping Perfect by Emma Harrison
Release Date - March 29, 2016
Publisher Website - Simon and Schuster
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 336 pages
My Rating - 2.5/5
**received from publisher for an honest review**

**mild spoilers**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Gone Girl meets the TV show Nashville in this sultry summer read about a girl who runs away from her high-profile past to live the normal life she’s always wanted.

Cecilia Montgomery has been America’s sweetheart since the day she was born. A member of the prestigious Montgomery family—the US equivalent of royalty—her childhood was cut short after she was nearly kidnapped. Since then, Cecilia has been hidden away, her adolescence spent at an exclusive boarding school.

Her dreams of becoming a professional violinist—dashed.

Her desire to be a normal teenager—not possible.

Her relationship with her once-loving parents—bitter and strained.

Nothing about Cecilia’s life is what she would have planned for herself. So when an opportune moment presents itself, Cecilia seizes the chance to become someone else. To escape. To disappear. To have the life she always dreamed about, far away from her mother’s biting remarks and her sheltered upbringing.

Cecilia says goodbye to the Montgomery name and legacy to become Lia Washington: relaxed, wild, in love, free, and living on her own terms for the very first time. But being on your own isn’t always as easy as it seems…
Contemporary novels, for me, are built on characters. There is no complex world, magical fantasy elements, or other devices for the reader to get lost in. It's the characters that grab your heart and make a contemporary novel go from an okay read to one that stays with you. Sadly, Escaping Perfect was not a novel that ended up being for me and it was mostly due to the characters and their development.

There are definitely some enjoyable parts of this novel. The writing is a perfect fit for the contemporary genre, and there are some genuinely cute moments between some of the characters. The friendships, in particular, held a lot of promise as Cecilia started to let people in. These elements are well done enough that I might try something by this author again if the premise caught my attention.

Cecilia's motivations were hard for me to grasp. I didn't understand her as a character, and therefore her choices didn't resonate with me. This feels like a situation where what we are told about a character and what we are shown don't add up and that left me feeling disconnected. Most of the secondary characters never really progress past surface level characterization, at least for me, and that also impacted the way in which I related to the story.

Jasper is considered the heartbreaker of his town. His reputation proceeds him, and that reputation is one that doesn't lend itself to someone wanting a serious relationship. I enjoy a 'bad boy' redemption story (especially if the guy in question really is a bad boy and not actually psychotic or abusive) and Jasper could have easily been 'redeemed' but I never felt the romance was given the attention it needed for this to happen. I never fully understood what drew him and Cecilia together. There wasn't a deeper exploration of their relationship. Drama outweighed substance in their relationship, and I never felt that their issues were fully dealt with. Jealousy, mistrust, and secrets rule these pages, and their romance, which may be exciting, but only if there is an attachment and investment to the characters and their romance.

There is so much I wanted this novel to delve into. Particularly Cecilia and her relationship with her family. The reasons she ran away are given to the reader in brief brushstrokes, but it would have been beneficial to have been shown. I feel that more time with her family was necessary to feel sympathy for Cecilia's situation. This element, for me, was imperative to be included in the story. Combining this with a disjointedly rushed ending and the novel feels uneven. This is the type of ending that demands a sequel simply because you're left with too many unanswered questions. I do not see any definitive news of a sequel anywhere, and this ending would be most unsatisfying if there is not one in the works.

As a last note - those looking for the Gone Girl comparison will not find that within these pages. There is no mystery to speak of, and this comparison left me more than a little confused. This fact did not impact my review, but some readers may go into this expecting something other than what is within these pages and that could impact their enjoyment (even if a book should be judged on what it is, rather than what the reader expects it to be).

This is a story that held a lot of potential but just never quite reached it for me. There wasn't a moment that made the characters or the story click for me. I didn't connect with the characters, the romance or the story in general. While this one wasn't for me I do encourage you to check out other reviews before deciding to read it or not.

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