By Kate Pavao,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Teens learn to live for themselves in intense, mature book.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Parents could use this book to discuss any of the topics raised -- rape, eating disorders, teen plastic surgery, cyberbullying, same-sex dating, steroids, suicide, and more. Scroll down to our "What to Talk About" section for other ideas and resources.
The author writes in a note to readers that "Perfection is a ridiculous goal because there is no such thing," and being pretty is all about letting your "inner light shine through."
Positive Role Models
The characters in this book struggle with a variety of issues, from steroid addiction to eating disorders and more -- but at the end they are learning to stop trying to be perfect and instead be themselves: "Living means taking chances. Risks. Playing safe all the time is being dead."
Violence & Scariness
A girl is date raped by her boyfriend, who, after they break up, uses his phone to take a picture of her having sex with another girl -- and emails it around. Later, he assaults an umpire during a baseball game. Another character commits suicide, and another is left hospitalized after a brutal rape and stabbing. A girl talks about how her alcoholic father used to hit her.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Heavy making out between couples, including same-sex couples. A girl is photographed having oral sex with her girlfriend. A couple watches pornography. Another teen is pressured to trade sex for a modeling contract. A girl learns her boyfriend had an affair with a teacher.
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Lots of mature language, including all the biggies.
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Products & Purchases
Pretty minor. A few mentions of stores and products: Zales, JC Penney, Jell-O, UGG boots, Viagra.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Parties with drinking and pot smoking. One teen is constantly drinking. A baseball player takes steroids, and an aspiring model pops pills to lose weight. All of these choices are shown to have negative consequences.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this a mature book that deals bluntly with a lot of intense material: rape, eating disorders, teen plastic surgery, cyberbullying, same-sex dating, steroids, suicide, and more. As in all of Hopkins' books, this installment is told through verse poetry and features lots of graphic language and sexual situations. The characters in this book struggle -- and do terrible things to themselves and others -- but at the end they are learning to stop trying to meeting some unattainable standard of perfection. Instead, they realize, "Living means taking chances. Risks. Playing safe all the time is being dead."
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
Conner strives to be the perfect athlete, Kendra to the perfect size -- meanwhile Cara tries to live up to her mother's impossible expectations, and Andre tires to hide his passion for dancing. Meanwhile, they are all hiding secrets: Conner is addicted to steroids, for example, and Kendra is starving herself to death. Through verse poetry, each character narrates his or her struggle -- and comes to the slow realization that he or she must escape an external definition of perfect.
Is It Any Good?
PERFECT fits the classic Hopkins formula -- thick book, verse poetry, hot-button issues, and mature language -- and fans will likely race through the 600-plus pages. Perhaps the author tries a bit too hard to drive her point home here -- don't try to be perfect, be yourself -- and she makes her characters suffer an awful lot along the way. Even so, the book will certainly give your teens plenty to ponder. A plot line about cyberbullying could especially lead to some important conversation among family members.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about YA books. There has been a lot of discussion in the media about the mature material in these books -- which some feel have gotten too dark. In response, the author argues on her blog that when teens "become a character in a book, use and lose control, right along with that character, they understand better what’s at stake." Which side are you on?
This book features a cybercrime: A boy uses his phone to take a picture of his ex-girlfriend having sex with another girl and then emails it around. Does this sound like something that might actually happen? Families may want to take the time to review Common Sense Media's tips for preventing cyberbullying.
- Author: Ellen Hopkins
- Genre: Poetry
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: September 13, 2011
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 14
- Number of pages: 640
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
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