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I Belong

Review: Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor

Better Than PerfectTitle: Better than Perfect

Author: Melissa Kantor

Genre: YA Contemporary

Series: N/A

Publication Date: February 17, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062279238 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062279231 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Zed


From the acclaimed author of Maybe One Day, Melissa Kantor, comes a poignant coming-of-age story that skillfully captures the singular experience of being a teenage girl. This beautifully woven tale will appeal to fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen.

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?

Quick & Dirty: An average contemporary read about self discovery and dealing with family issues.

Opening Sentence: “I’m going to miss you.”

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Juliet’s life was perfect until her father left home and her mum overdosed on her pain meds, or so she thought. What she didn’t know is that her mother had been unhappy for a very long time but she just hadn’t noticed it. The picture perfect family Juliet believed she had was all a lie and once she realises this, she begins to lose confidence in everything she has left.

But even as I thought that, I couldn’t help wondering if maybe some things, once they’re broken, can never be made whole again.

I could see how difficult it was for Juliet to deal with her mother’s issues, but her reaction to her mum’s overdose was a bit over the top. It was almost like she was living in a bubble that had suddenly burst. I mean, surely there must have been some signs of an unhappy family, why did it come as such a shock to her? The girl was supposed to be going to Harvard, you would think she’d be smart enough to pick up on these things!

The Clovers and their band brought a nice mix to the story and I wished they had a stronger presence because it was almost as if they disappeared after Sean’s fight, which was a huge shame. Sean might have a crude sense of humour with some awful habits but he made me chuckle.

“Jules, sweetheart,” Sean said, stopping the song for what must have been the fiftieth time. “You sound like you’re singing in the church choir.”
“I’m an atheist,” I snapped.

Declan didn’t add much to the story, personally I thought he was there to just look good. His main qualities as far as I could tell were that he was an excellent singer, had a British accent and was hot. Apart from that, there wasn’t any substance to him so I didn’t understand why Juliet liked him so much.

Juliet and Jason’s teenage romance was horrifically cheesy, they were almost adults yet they made a ‘j power’ pinkie promise, seriously who does that???!!! I can understand why they were in a relationship to begin with: their families were similar, they grew up together, were both very ambitious and driven to go to Harvard but the fact of life is that people change. Just because you want something now doesn’t mean you’ll want the same thing 5 years down the line. The problem was that in this relationship, Jason continued to want the same things but Juliet changed.

Although I wasn’t too fond of Juliet, I liked that she did what she wanted and wasn’t afraid of facing the consequences. She knew her interests changed so she stopped chasing it rather than being stuck in an unhappy routine that she can’t come back from. It must have taken a lot of courage for her to choose not to do what she had always dreamed of and accept who she had become, but I liked it and found it inspiring. I think it’s definitely an important message for teenagers today.

In general, it was an okay-ish contemporary read but the characters needed development.

Notable Scene:

Was this what it had been like for my mom? This sense that it was easier to sink down than to swim up? I thought of the Sylvia Plath poem we’d had on our first practice AP exam. Dying / Is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well. Maybe my mother hadn’t done it exceptionally well. Maybe she’d really wanted to die, only she’d screwed up the dosage.


FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Better Than Perfect. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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