A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
What's the story?
Morgan Stockhour lives on a large island called Internment, floating high in the atmosphere with no way off. Because space is at a premium, many aspects of people's lives are heavily regulated by the government. Over many centuries a peaceful balance has been achieved, and most people are happy and thriving. When a girl in 16-year-old Morgan's class is murdered, Morgan wakes up to society's flaws and gets caught up with those who are ready to force a change. This puts them all in great danger, and their only hope is to find a way to survive going over the edge.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why dystopian novels are so popular. How is Perfect Ruin similar to or different from The Hunger Games?
What do the quotes from Daphne's essay at the beginning of each chapter add to the story? If you lived on Internment, would you think her ideas were blasphemous or treasonous?
Morgan thinks that forcing best friend Pen to drink in secret will only make her tendency worse. Do you agree? Is it better to let someone drink where they're safe or to try to keep all alcohol away from them? Why?
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