Tuesday, April 21, 2015



YA fiction
Saturday night a middle ear infection wiped out my sense of
balance so that not only did the world spin any time I made the
mistake of trying to stand up, but when I did have to walk I stumbled
as if I'd downed a fifth of whiskey. Not a pretty sight! I cancelled
my ride to church and explained to my director why I could not make
rehearsel (thank goodness for cell phones) and hit the sack. The next
morning I picked up a book I'd selected at the library. Once again I
was stunned, only this time in a good way.
Perfect by Ellen Hopkins is just exactly that. It is a
masterpiece in my favorite genre, one I aspire to publish in someday:
the novel told in verse--622 pages of paradise.
Of course the four high school students whose narratives
alternate aren't anywhere near paradise. Each is trying to work his
or her way through complicated and painful life circumstances. You'll
get to meet:
*Cara Sierra Sykes whose twin brother, Conner, attempted suicide in
their posh and perfect house. He has been institutionalized. Now she
is alone to face the pressure of parents who will never accept
anything but the best. Her boyfriend is one of the most popular guys
in her private school. As her ice queen mom is fond of saying,
appearances are everything. They make the perfect couple. Too bad
she has no clue who she really is under the perfect facade;
*Kendra Melody Mathieson, Connor's ex girlfriend who can't seem to get
over him. Instead of being pressured to get into an elite college
like Cara, she's being groomed for Miss Teen Nevada. Her mom has
entered her in beauty pageants since she was too little to walk.
Since then her life has centered around pageants and developing the
skills to win then. Her stepfather is about to spring for a nose
job. Too bad that at 5'10" and 122 pounds she feels like she needs to
get a lot thinner;
*Sean Terrence O'Connell, the other half of the Cara/Sean perfect
couple. He lives with his aunt and uncle because his mother bled to
death giving birth to his brother (He was there when it happened) and
his football coach father was killed in a crash that took out his
team. He's a logical thinker, a man with a game plan he follows
dilligently. Baseball has been his life since his tee ball days.
He's going to be the best first baseman ever and go off to college
with Cara. Too bad the illicit steroids that help give him an edge
may be having unintended side effects;
*and Andre Marcus King III, black heir to a family that's been moving
on up. His grandfather grew up in urban Oakland within sight of
hillside mansions which he coveted, went through college on
scholarship, and became an award winning inventor. His father added
to the family wealth by becoming an investment banker with a thick
stock portfolio. (Mom is the plastic surgeon who is about to "fix"
Kendra's nose). The family expects Andre to follow in his father's
gilded footsteps. Too bad they would never understand that he lives
to dance.
Each character has not only a distinct voice, but a unique rhyme
pattern. Sean's sections, for example, are told in five line segments
that look like vees of migratory geese. What's most amazing is that
Hopkins rocks her poetic proficiency without it ever feeling
artificial, without the amazing style ever overpowering the powerful
Seriously if you or your kids (high school and up) are anything
like me from the moment you meet you meet the characters on a school
cancelling snow day you will not want to put the book down. You will
be totally blown away by a verse novel that is as rich and satisfying
as dark chocolate with caramel and sea salt. Yowza!
On a personal note, my day in bed getting rid of the infection was a
real treat. Lying down I didn't feel all that bad. With such an
amazing book to read and gourmet chocolates (paid 83 cents for a $26
dollar box at Kohls thanks to a gift card and seasonal discount) I was
probably having more fun that people who were perfectly well. :) I
learned more from reading that book than I could have from a college
class. I am seriously going to read every book Hopkins has published
and continues to put out.
A great big shout out (along with a sincere apology for missing
rehearsel) goes out to the amazing cast, crew, and, of course,
director of Jungle Book. It is a privilege to be a member of this very
memorable ensemble. Keep on doing your best and we'll be nothing less
than amazing.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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