A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Kids will learn a little about some aspects of maintaining a thriving society, mostly on the what-not-to-do side.
Heroine Morgan concludes near the end that violence is the only way to achieve freedom, providing a good opportunity to compare the civil rights movement with Ghandi's non-violent independence movement. Having free will isn't the same as living freely in an open society.
Positive Role Models
Sixteen-year-old Morgan Stockhour always sees people in a positive light. Her attitude toward her friend Pen's drinking problem is very mature. She's a devoted and supportive daughter, sister, and fiancee. She's a bit distracted in the classroom but very bright and diligent about homework. She likes her life but wants to know more about what's outside the confines of her world. Best friend Pen is loyal and supportive. Family bonds are very strong, but adults like her mother and older brother, Lex, have difficulty coping. Her mother overmedicates herself into oblivion, and Lex clearly suffers from PTSD after a traumatic incident in the past left him blind.
Violence & Scariness
The central mystery revolves around a murder. It's mentioned that the victim's wrist and throat were slashed and she bled to death, but these actions aren't described. Blood is mentioned half a dozen times without gore. A minor character threatens someone with a knife. Best friend Pen hits someone on the head, and skull cracking and blood are mentioned, again without detail. Minor characters who are important to heroine Morgan die, and Morgan thinks about her mortality knowing that everyone in the world of Internment is euthanized when they reach 75 to prevent overpopulation.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing happens about half a dozen times and is first-love innocent and romantic. Two or three kisses are on the lips and the rest are elsewhere on the face and neck. One description of a kiss mentions "the taste of his tongue" and is otherwise abstractly described. Some aspects of sexuality are heavily regulated by the state and bring up sophisticated questions. Same-sex attraction is officially not OK, and when discovered the government tries to correct it, but Morgan is matter-of-fact about it. The number and timing of children is heavily regulated, and unapproved pregnancies are terminated, which happened to Morgan's sister-in-law. Twins are infrequent, but the second-born is always drowned, thanks to ancient superstition about the nature of twins.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Alcohol and drug consumption are important issues for some characters. Best friend Pen's mother drinks heavily, and Pen seems to be headed in the same direction, but Morgan knows why it's bad to get drunk. Morgan's mother overuses apparently narcotic headache remedies that make her sleep a lot, and older brother Lex's experience in the pharmacy industry leads to his deep mistrust of all medication.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Perfect Ruin is the first installment of The Internment Chronicles series by Lauren DeStefano, author of The Chemical Garden Trilogy, and it will get kids thinking about some of society's big issues. Drugs and alcohol, as well as sophisticated ideas about human sexuality and mortality, are presented in the dystopian big-city-size world known as Internment. The central mystery is a murder, and the victim's violent death is relayed but not described in detail. Elsewhere blood is mentioned half a dozen times without detail or gore. Budding romance between betrothed couples is sweet and infrequent and never goes past kissing. Minor but emotionally significant characters die.
Is It Any Good?
The language is classically hollow and slightly ethereal in this book, and the writing really shines. DeStefano's ability to balance this distancing rhetoric with an authentic narrative voice brings us into the heart and mind of a bright young lady who wonders what else the world might have to offer. DeStefano continues giving teens a dystopian framework for examining some of life's big issues. In contrast, though, the world of Internment is rather sweet and old-fashioned, richly imagined and detailed with deep but not overly complicated mythology.
It almost goes off the rails, though, with a flaw that's all too common in movies: Out of the blue and for no apparent reason than to perhaps make this more marketable as a screenplay, the contemplative pace abruptly changes to faster-paced action and peril sequences. By then we're invested enough in the characters to want to see them make it through, though, and the ending leaves plenty of room for what comes next.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.