What is perfection, and is it possible to attain? That's the question driving the narrators of Ellen Hopkins's 2011 sequel to Impulse, which is, appropriately, called Perfect.
Perfect shows the aftereffects of Conner's suicide attempt on his family and friends—one of the narrators is his sister, Cara, and another is his ex-girlfriend, Kendra.
Hopkins is known for carrying a character's thread through multiple books—it's part of what makes her fans so devoted. And she doesn't shy away from gritty subject matter, including prostitution, drug abuse, rape, self-injury, and incest. Perfect is no exception, and its characters struggle with eating disorders, addiction, rape, stalking, and sexual orientation… to name a few.
To this end, nobody writes a cautionary tale quite like Hopkins. Her books have been fixtures on the American Library Association's list of Best Books for Young Adults since Crank was released in 2004, and every YA book she writes becomes a New York Times best seller. So it's safe to say that when it comes to teen literature, Ellen Hopkins owns.
Heck, you might even say she's perfect.
When your parents are more concerned with how you look than who you really are, it's easy to get caught up in the façade. In Perfect, Cara's parents want a popular, pretty cheerleader who gets straight As and goes to their alma mater, while Andre's want a businessman to carry on the family fortune, as well as the family name. Kendra's dad is largely out of the picture, but her mom wants nothing less than a runway model, even if it means she's on the brink of death from an eating disorder. Dolla dolla bill, y'all.
The consequences of trying to be the person somebody else wants you to be range from general unhappiness to suicidality. So if you're living under the T. Rex-sized weight of someone else's expectations, but aching to come out about your true passion, Cara and Andre are the narrators for you.
If, on the other hand, you feel like the pressure is leading you down the path of anger and self-destruction, you'll relate more to Kendra and Sean. That's right, we said it: It's okay to relate to Sean—it's just not okay to use steroids or rape people. His feelings, however, are about as relatable as they come at times. Like all the other narrators, he's desperately trying to find his way.
And that's what Perfect is all about, really: finding not just yourself, but also your self, the fire inside you that makes the world bearable. If these messed-up narrators can do it, so can you. And if you're not as messed up as these narrators, go talk to someone who is. Reading Perfect just might help you spot a Conner before he steps off a cliff.
Ellen Hopkins's Author Site
What's she writing next? Find out here.
Ellen Hopkins's Twitter Feed
The author tweets lots of pictures of her travels, as well as the occasional funny video.
Goodreads Reader Interviews
Hopkins answers reader questions, particularly about her new adult novel, Triangles.
Hopkins Author Interview
Here's a down-and-dirty (no pun intended) overview of Hopkins's work, courtesy of Simon and Schuster.
Hopkins Talks About Perfect
The narrators' issues came from letters she receives from teens. Aw… She really does listen to her readers.
Sean Speaks (No, Wait, Let Him)
Aaron Tveit, the star of the Broadway show Catch Me If You Can, narrates Sean's sections in the Perfect audiobook. Here's a sample.
A Few Words from Andre
The Wire and 90210 star Tristan Wilds takes on the audiobook version of Andre.
Kendra Tells Us What She Sees in the Mirror
Aya Cash of Traffic Light and Mercy fame narrates Kendra in the audiobook.
Last But Not Least, Here's Cara
Boardwalk Empire's Heather Lind gives us the audiobook version of Cara.
What Does Hopkins Think of Her Readers?
Check out this autographed copy of Perfect.
Say It With Ink
Here's a reader tattoo of the last line of Perfect.
Galena High School, which Cara, Kendra, and Sean attend, is a real place. This is their mascot.