Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor

Pages: 336
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: February 17, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Darlings Are Forever
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

Goodreads says, "Juliet Newman has it all. A picture-perfect family; a handsome, loving boyfriend; and a foolproof life plan: ace her SATs, get accepted into Harvard early decision, and live happily ever after. But when her dad moves out and her mom loses it, Juliet begins questioning the rules she’s always lived by. And to make everything even more complicated there’s Declan, the gorgeous boy who makes her feel alive and spontaneous—and who’s totally off-limits. Torn between the life she always thought she wanted and one she never knew was possible, Juliet begins to wonder: What if perfect isn't all it’s cracked up to be? Melissa Kantor once again delivers a tale that is equal parts surprising, humorous, heartbreaking, and romantic. Powerful and honest, Juliet’s story brilliantly portrays the highs and lows of life in high school and will resonate with any reader who has experienced either."
Juliet Newman, from the outside, appears to have it all. She lives in a gorgeous home, she is very smart, and her boyfriend adores her. In fact, they are both planning on going to Harvard.  But if you look closer, things aren't what they seem.  Her father moved out and set up shop with another woman. Her mother can't recover from this blow. She finds herself wallowing in sadness day in and day out till one day she overdoses on prescription drugs.  Juliet finds her mother unconscious and sprawled out on the bathroom floor. Juliet's life is shaken irrevocably. She starts questioning what she really wants out of life? Her boyfriend? Harvard? Then one night she meets Declan, a musician, and she starts to break out of the comfort zone she has created for herself. Essentially, she starts to live for herself. Melissa Kantor's Better Than Perfect was a well-written book with a strong message; however, I didn't enjoy it as much as I was hoping for.

Juliet is a lot like many of the teenagers out there in Better Than Perfect. She pushes herself too hard and thinks good grades are the end-all-be-all. She tries to fit a mold of the perfect daughter, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect student, but she doesn't think about what she really wants. Before she knows it, she is living a life for everyone else, but herself. I think this is the case for many students, especially high-acheivers. They aren't even sure who they are, because they have little chance to explore it without the pressure of being "perfect."  I truly felt for her situation.

Juliet also goes through a sort of rebellious period after her mother's suicide attempt. She cuts her hair, dyes it and even spends a crazy night with Declan, the musician who pushes her out of her shell. He even encourages her to sing with his band. Things get sticky though when she doesn't tell her boyfriend, Jason, what happened with Declan. Let the drama ensue in Better Than Perfect.

For me, the pacing was off at times in Better Than Perfect. Parts of the novel moved very slowly. I found myself drifting away from the story and I also had a hard time connecting with the characters, but I did feel sympathetic towards Juliet's situation regarding her mother.

Like I said, I think Better Than Perfect is a good reminder that stellar grades and a great college don't necessarily mean you'll get an amazing job, live a perfect life and be overwhelmingly happy. I think this book reminds readers that it's important to find out what YOU love and pursue it at all costs. This book would be great in a high school library to remind all of the perfectionists that life isn't perfect and you can't control everything that is thrown your way. 

Thanks to HarperTeen, I am giving away one hardback copy of Better Than Perfect to a lucky reader. The giveaway is open to US readers only and the deadline is March 4th.  Please refer to my giveaway rules. Good luck!

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  1. I only heard a couple of days ago that Kantor had a new book out. I really loved her debut novel, so I imagine this one will cross my path eventually. Thanks to your review, I will temper my expectations when that time comes!

    1. Let me know your thoughts if/when you read it! Thanks for visiting!

  2. I was looking forward to reading this book, but a stilted pace is not what I'm looking for in a contemporary fiction.

    1. I heard her other book, Maybe One Day, is a lot better, so I may check that one out. If you read this, let me know your thoughts. THanks for visiting, Joy!

  3. I have this one, but haven't read it yet. It's a bummer that the pacing was off and that you had a hard time connecting with the main character. I might sit on this one. Great review!

    1. The reviews are pretty mixed. Apparently her other book, Maybe One Day, is much better, so I may check that one out. If you read this one, I'll be interested in your thoughts. Thanks for visiting, Natalie!

  4. I would recommend this book to YA lit fans who can handle negative emotions imposed by unexpected choices, romance lovers and teens who have experienced family issues as well.

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