“Perfect” resonates with struggling students

Photo taken with permission from McElderry Books

Photo taken with permission from McElderry Books

Grace Schneider, Staff Writer

High school students are highly pressured in every area of life. They need to have the perfect grades, the perfect body, the perfect partner. Sometimes the pressure builds, and it feels like no one could possibly understand what we are going through.

Author Ellen Hopkins understands. Her novel “Perfect” follows four high school students in their quest to become the epitomes of perfection.  They struggle with problems that are common in high school, but sometimes too taboo to talk about: using steroids to be the best athlete, or becoming anorexic to have the best body, or agreeing to partake in sexual activity just to please a significant other.

The book is written entirely in free verse poetry, and each character’s perspective is written in a different format. The style is odd, and a takes a little time to get used to, but it sets Hopkins’ writing apart from the norm. She is immensely creative and it makes a long book a fun and quick read.

This style connects a reader more intimately to the mind of a character. It can show the deeper thoughts of each narrator without explicitly dictating each feeling. And because there are four narrators, no character ever gets boring, and as the story progresses, you see how their lives intertwine in a brilliantly realistic way.

The characters demand attention. Hopkins makes a reader feel for every character in every moment by making them so relatable. Their struggles become your struggles. They can make a reader cry or jump with joy. Hopkins captures the minds of teenagers more perfectly than any other author I have ever read; it’s as though she uses thoughts from her personal teenage diary, or never grew up herself.

Hopkins is not afraid to get dark and dirty either. She freely shows teenagers’ realistic struggles with home life, love, relationships, suicide, body image, and parents who care more about grades than mental health. Cara, one of the narrators, had a brother who attempted suicide, and she explains that her mother was more concerned with the family’s public image and the blood on her white carpet than her son’s well being.

Her stories may sometimes be a little over-dramatized, but they always resonate deeply. “Perfect” emphasizes that people are not always as composed as they appear, and teenagers do not have to be perfect even though teachers, parents, friends and all the rest of society is pressuring them to be so.

It is the book that will accidentally keep you up into the early hours of the morning to see how each character turns out in the end.

Overall rating: yellow staryellow staryellow staryellow staryellow star