Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: 2011
This is another Ellen Hopkins YA novel. If I see an Ellen Hopkins book, especially one I haven’t read, I grab it and read it immediately. Ever since I first read Crank, I have been hooked. I love Hopkins’ books because:
- they are written in verse form
- they are so poignantly real
- the characters are fully developed, yet elusive enough for us to fill in with our own background knowledge
- the themes are ones we all struggle with, or know someone who struggles with it
- they are thought provoking
I have not yet read all of Hopkins’ novels, but she is one I return to time and time again. My oldest daughter has read them all, since beginning with Crank when it was first published. I read Crank, because she recommended it. And the gritty reality of life with addiction and what it does to those surrounded by it made me yearn for more understanding. I picked up Perfect because it was suggested for a lower level reading student (it’s funny how something with such powerful themes and concepts can be deemed “lower level” because of things like sentence length–which is always short in a verse novel–and how many syllables the words have–but that’s a completely different post!). The student in question did not want to read it, which I think was a good choice, because the themes and concepts written in verse form would have proven difficult for this student. Perfect is a follow up to Conner’s story in Impulse (which I have not yet read, but didn’t seem to get in the way of my reading it).
So, I read it instead. It took me the better part of a semester–because I only read it during the Independent Reading time I use in my classroom, so fifteen minutes here and there added up eventually! I finished it and wished there was more.
Four seemingly independent story lines begin to tell the story and struggle each one faces in the search for a perfect version of themselves, which does not exist. Cara, Andre, Sean, and Kendra each have separate lives, but they intertwine through a variety of relationships. These four characters struggle through some very emotional and adult themes and ideas.
The themes and ideas covered include:
- Eating Disorders
- Use of drugs to enhance athletic performance
- Identity formation
- Following one’s dreams when they conflict with others around you
- Rape (touched on)
- Drugs and alcohol use as a coping mechanism
What Hopkins does so well is develop the characters and have them tell their stories. These characters quickly take on a persona we can all identify with, or at least can consider identifying with. Her words for these characters flow from poem to poem and instance to instance. Her poems build the story up and interweave to tell, at once, individual and collective stories. I discovered, soon after starting it, that the end of one character’s “chapter” (for lack of a better word) alluded to the beginning of the next character’s “chapter” beginning. After reading the first set of “chapters” for the four characters, I knew I could use Hopkins’ carefully crafted characters as a way to show my students how characters are developed through their actions and interactions with those around them.
Overall, this is another Hopkins winner. She creates perfection driven students and leads them on a journey to self discovery every one of us goes through at some point in our lives.
- Anyone who loves Ellen Hopkins
- Anyone who loves novels in verse form
- Anyone who loves or needs a good book on identity formation
- Anyone who struggles with the idea of perfection (which doesn’t exist ;)!)