Study Guide

Perfect Appearances

By Ellen Hopkins

Appearances

[…] when/did creating a flawless façade/become a more vital goal/than learning to love the person/who/lives inside your skin? (1.4-5)

Hopkins begins the book with Cara's question, which is the same question the other narrators are dealing with. Cara and Andre are closer to finding their authentic selves than Sean and Kendra—at least they have genuine passions (Dani and dance).

When I look at her, I have/to admit her beauty regime/is working. It's as if by sheer/force of will she won't permit/wrinkles to etch her suede/complexion. But I know, deep/down, she is afraid of time. (1.35-36)

Seeing through her mom's fear is another way Cara is more insightful than the other narrators. If nothing else, she knows her parents aren't genuinely happy.

I grew up knowing I was/pretty and believing everything/good/about me had to do with how/I looked. The mirror was my best/friend. Until it started telling/me I wasn't really pretty/enough. (2.3-4)

The more pressure her parents and agents put on her, the more Kendra's mirror starts to lie. It's another judge, another reminder that she doesn't measure up.

Then I figured out Rule Number One/of the Popularity Game—looks trump/brains every time. (2.23-24)

If you're a teenager who feels insecure about your own appearance, you tend to idolize the people who look like you think you should.

Sean/is adventurous. Fun. Good-looking/in a jock kind of way. And you know,/everyone expects the perfect girl/to go out with the perfect guy./If there's one thing I've learned/from Mom, it's that appearances are/everything. (5.19-20)

Sean's actually far from perfect, but he looks perfect. If her daughter is dating a good-looking sports star, it makes Cara's mom look better (or so her mom thinks).

[…] my mom might/argue that I'll want to/know math for a future career. She uses/it all the time, calculating body fat/percentages and how/many millimeters of bone to remove/or skin to tighten to achieve the desired/effect. (8.8-10)

Andre's mom makes a lot of mistakes, but at least she uses math to figure out that Kendra can't handle anesthesia.

Perception is everything to Mom, and style/is a vital component./She wants her son to be a fashion trendsetter. (8.25)

Andre says the same thing about his mom that Cara says about hers: Cara's mom wants her to have the perfect boyfriend, while Andre's wants him to have the perfect wardrobe.

Me? No way. My sister is in there/now, choosing a new nose. But I kind/of like what I've got,/you know? (8.38-39)

"Choosing a new nose" is an interesting way to put it. It's like there's a set menu of perfection for Kendra to select from.

What/I'm more than a little/vague about is/the stranger/who keeps insisting/she is the real me—/and that if I would allow/her to take up residence/inside/this flawless shell,/I will finally come to terms/with who I was born to be. (13.3-5)

Coming out is just the first step for Cara in figuring out who she really is. Dani's authenticity gives Cara the courage to find her own.

I'll talk your mom into the implants, Xavier/promised. Everyone will want you then. (22.25)

Actually, there are plenty of people who don't find implants attractive, but Xavier seizes on Kendra's uncertainty to craft her into the kind of woman that turns him on. He knows the pressure of other people's opinions will sway her. It's pretty predatory.