Monday, February 16, 2015

Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor

Better Than Perfect3.5 out of 5 Robots!

Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release: February 17, 2015
Hardcover:  336 Pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
My Copy: Publisher
Reviewer: Shannon

Book Summary:
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.

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
This book is kind of a tough one for me.  There were some serious issues that the book tries to delve into and I appreciated it.  But there was a lot of stuff that got in the way and ultimately, I don't think I was ever really on board with how everything went down.

Juliet is a driven straight A student working hard to get early acceptance into Harvard.  She has a nice long term boyfriend who is also driven and trying to get into Harvard.  Unfortunately, Juliet's parent recently separated.  She is barely talking to her father and her mother is severely depressed.  Juliet comes home one day to find her mother passed out on the floor with a bottle of pills next to her.  Juliet's world is turned upside down.  With her mother in the hospital and Juliet freaking out, she meets a band and ends up making out with one of the band members.  Now Juliet is forced to think about everything she thought was right and true.

I appreciated Juliet's struggle with her mother's mental illness and her own unraveling state as a result.  Juliet spends most of the book in freak out mode.  She feels guilty about making out with Declan.  She feels pressured to get into Harvard.  She is trying to deal with her mother's mental illness and isn't handling it very well.  She fights with herself between doing what she wants and what she thinks she should do.  It's a little painful to watch.  Juliet also has an incredibly naive outlook on her life and does not do well when she is confronted with something that contradicts it.  Especially where she family is concerned.

But for all the positive parts of watching Juliet navigate her new landscape, I felt a lot of the plot would have been lifted from any other teen book or tv show.  Some plot points were horribly cliched.  At one point I had almost wondered if I had read this book before.  It was like checking off troupe after troupe after troupe. 

It probably wouldn't have been so bad if I actually liked Juliet.  But something about her rubbed me the wrong way.  I think it was how she fought every single person trying to help her.  I know she felt angry and alone, but it was irritating to read.  Especially where her dad was concerned.  I mean, geez, throw the poor guy a bone!  (I can tell I'm a parent when I start siding more and more with the parents in YA).

And let's talk about the cheating.  If you cannot stand books about cheating...then don't read this book.  I don't think you will feel satisfaction over the way it plays out.  I don't really want to say more so I don't give away the plot, but believe me, your enjoyment of this book will really depend on how you feel about cheating characters.

 Overall, I wanted to like this book.  It was incredibly readable and I read through it in a night.  It was easy and compelling.  But there was something just a little off about it.  I did not like the cliched plot devices and I found Juliet's character to be grating on my nerves.  At the end of the book, I was just not as satisfied as I hoped.

Disclosure:  I reviewed a copy free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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