A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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."
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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.
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