Monday, February 16, 2015

Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor

Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor
Release Date - February 17, 2015
Publisher Website - Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 336 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received in exchange for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Juliet Newman has it all. A picture-perfect family; a handsome, loving boyfriend; and a foolproof life plan: ace her SATs, get accepted into Harvard early decision, and live happily ever after.

But when her dad moves out and her mom loses it, Juliet begins questioning the rules she’s always lived by. And to make everything even more complicated there’s Declan, the gorgeous boy who makes her feel alive and spontaneous—and who’s totally off-limits. Torn between the life she always thought she wanted and one she never knew was possible, Juliet begins to wonder: What if perfect isn't all it’s cracked up to be?

Melissa Kantor once again delivers a tale that is equal parts surprising, humorous, heartbreaking, and romantic. Powerful and honest, Juliet’s story brilliantly portrays the highs and lows of life in high school and will resonate with any reader who has experienced either.
Perfection, perception, and reality all collide in this well written novel. A story about the pressure to be perfect, the truth we attempt to hide, and the moment we realize nothing is quite what we though it was, including ourselves.

Better Than Perfect is filled with flawed characters, inadvisable choices, and yet I found myself wanting the best for everyone involved. A hot button issue is at the heart of this novel, and it may end up being a polarizing factor for many readers, but I think the novel is one that you should stick with regardless of personal opinions. The whys of what happens and the aftermath make everything less black and white than you might expect. I appreciate characters who own their mistakes and I think Juliet eventually does.

Juliet isn't perfect. In fact, she makes plenty of mistakes. She even makes awful choices sometimes. In struggling to be perfect, she realizes that it's an impossible standard she's held herself up to. As a reader, you will not agree with all of her choices. The choices she makes, however, are within character. It fits perfectly with who the character is, and what we know about her. Juliet has much of what she thought was true pulled away from her as she struggles to deal with her parents separation, and it's aftermath.

Perception and reality has been represented in literature and other forms of entertainment plenty of times. The idea that you never really know someone underneath what they present to the world is a common theme. Juliet goes through something everyone does while growing up during this novel. There comes a moment where you stop viewing your parents as Mom and Dad and start seeing them as people with their own flaws, and problems. You see through that comforting notion of Mom and Dad to the individual underneath. As children we often view our parents are perfect. We are either too young, or are shielded from the reality. Juliet learns that her parents make mistakes just like anyone else. That they are still figuring things out. That they have secrets of their own. It's not something I had seen tackled in a young adult novel before and the inclusion of the family in such a prominent way was a welcome change.

The romance is going to be hit or miss. Plenty of people will not be fans of this love story. Without giving spoilers, there is plenty of drama, baggage, bad choices, and angst to complicate the situation. However, it feels like something Juliet needed to go through. The romance, however, is a back drop to the real issues facing Juliet. Through the romance we see her change, and realize things about herself, and those around her. It's something that assists the plot rather than being the plot, which isn't really clear until the end of the novel.

The ending of the novel once again hinges on choices. The choices that we all make and why we are making them. Too often we might make the choices others expect or want. The freedom of making a choice because YOU choose it is liberating and it's something we all have to learn. That's Juliet's journey as much as any other discovery she makes along the way. Owing and making those choices is what ultimately makes us who we are, so we have to make the most of them.

A novel that explores the idea of being who other people think you are. The exhausting pressure that puts someone under, and the freedom of breaking free. Melissa Kantor has written a messy, imperfect, flawed character who doesn't always make the best choices. If you enjoy this type of character and this type of story, you'll find much to love in Better Than Perfect.

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