The Perfectionists

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
The Perfectionists Book Poster Image
Murder mystery is formulaic fluff but rather addictive.

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

If you have a reluctant reader, this guilty pleasure may do the trick. Teens also may be interested in some of the films mentioned here, including The Bad Seed and And Then There Were None, which are based on great novels.

Positive Messages

There's a lot of inappropriate behavior here: A lecherous teacher preys on female students, a girl makes her best friend think the boy she likes likes her back, a bully pushes a kid to suicide, a boy shares a sexy picture of a girl with his friends, and the protagonists drug a boy to exact revenge. But even though they do a bad thing, they're trying to right a wrong, and they do look out for one another. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The girls at the center of this story aren't perfect, but they're trying to right some wrongs, including getting revenge on a bully who pushes an introverted boy to kill himself and a teacher who sexually harasses students. Readers will have to decide for themselves whether these characters are worth rooting for.

Violence

Girls drug a boy at a party, and he dies the next morning. A boy kills himself after being relentlessly bullied. A father abuses his daughter. A teacher is murdered. 

Sex

Some dating, kissing, and making out. A girl feels used after having sex with her boyfriend. Plus, a teacher collects sexts from students on his phone and later propositions one of the protagonists, who has a reputation for trading sexual favors for grades. She kisses him, unbuttons her dress, and tells him she wants a "perfect" night with him -- though she's really tricking him. 

Language

Some strong words, including "bitch," "butt," "oh, my God," and  "s--t."

Consumerism

The girls live in a wealthy town, and clothing brands include Hermès, Toms, Kate Spade, and Alice and Olivia; cars include Mercedes, BMW, and Audi; drink brands include Starbucks, Gatorade, and Coke; and media and entertainment references include iPhone, iPod, Nintendo DS, Katy Perry, and Jay-Z. Also, a teacher confiscates a Zippo lighter. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Students take OxyContin recreationally, and a teacher has a prescriptions. There's drinking at a teen party. A student and a teacher smoke cigarettes. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard is a guilty pleasure similar to her Pretty Little Liars series, and as such has some risqué content: In addition to drinking, smoking, drugs, two murders, some strong language, and label dropping, a lecherous teacher preys on female students, even collecting sexts from them; a girl makes her best friend think the boy she likes likes her back; a bully pushes a kid to suicide; a boy shares a sexy picture of a girl with his friends, and more. The protagonists -- a group of girls -- drug a boy to exact revenge, and he turns up dead. But, even though they do a bad thing, they're trying to right a wrong, and they do look out for one another. Readers will have to decide for themselves whether these characters are worth rooting for. If your kids won't read anything else, this fluffy fiction may do the trick. Teens also may be interested in some of the films mentioned here, including The Bad Seed and And Then There Were None, which are based on great novels.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old December 22, 2016

Good for a mature 11-12 year old

My mom allows me to read this book, and really and YA book, until it gets a bit too graphic. I know some families can't accept reading drugs and murder, bu... Continue reading

What's the story?

If you're familiar with the Pretty Little Liars franchise, you know the drill. In THE PERFECTIONISTS, there's a group of girls hiding big secrets: One is the daughter of a hoarder; one is falling in love with her boyfriend's younger brother; and another is cheating with her best friend's boyfriend. The biggest secret of all? What they did to the bully who tortured them all on the night he was murdered. But really, Nolan's death is only the beginning for the girls in this scandalicious series. 

Is it any good?

Author Sara Shepard has a gift for spinning an endless string of secrets and scandals. Among this material, she does manage to raise some contemporary issues that will make readers think. There are many instances of bullying and cyberbullying, including one character killing himself because he can no longer handle how a bully is treating him at school. Readers also will enjoy thinking about the question of vigilantism that the girls discuss in their film class: "It was weirdly satisfying to watch each person get what he or she deserved. Could you even call it murder?" Readers who liked the Pretty Little Liars book series and TV show are likely to get hooked on this series, too -- even before the planned TV show comes out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about murder mysteries. What is appealing about these kind of stories?

  • Also, what do you think of the girls' behavior? They make some bad choices, including drugging a classmate. Are you rooting for them anyway?

  • What's fun about reading a series? Do you plan to read the sequels? What do you think will happen next?

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