Study Guide

Perfect Race

By Ellen Hopkins

Race

I like driving a pricey car, wearing clothes that feel/like they want to be next to my skin./I love not having to be a living, breathing/stereotype because/of my color. (4.8-9)

Andre's reference to "clothes that feel like they want to be next to my skin" is telling. He's not just talking about the comfort of the clothing; he's talking about his right to wear it.

He absorbs the information. Blinks twice./Finally comments, Blond,/huh? Which means, "So she's white?" (12.29)

Andre doesn't say whether or not the other girls he's fooled around with were white. However, if his dad doesn't know he prefers white girls, this might be one more thing he feels he has to hide.

Like how his own wife (my toffee-skinned mom) skews/way toward the Anglo/ideal. Like how she has made a fair/amount of money altering the features/of her African American/sisters, all to make them more "beautiful." (12.35-37)

Money frequently drives people to do ethically questionable things. Andre's mom might not like making black women more "beautiful," but she definitely likes having beautiful things.

Am I wrong to feel/this way? Does it make me a stereotype?/Or does it in some weird way make me/racist? If it does, would/I be less racist if I were only attracted/to black women? It's hard enough to/find someone you want/to be with. Why worry about color at all? (12.44-46)

We can't control who turns us on, but the social pressure to date within our ethnic groups can be pretty intense. Do you have a different opinion? Is Andre racist for only liking white girls?

Suddenly, food flies out of his mouth./Who the f*** is that with your sister?/Guess it's time for Dad to meet Andre. (22.92-93)

If your racism actually makes your dinner fly out of your mouth, it might be time for some sensitivity training, n'est ce pas?

Dad: Listen to me, little girl. I'd better/never see you with/someone like… that… again. Never. (24.47)

Jenna's dad is doing too little parenting, too late—not unlike her stepdad. Instead of addressing the fact that she's dating an older guy, he addresses the guy's skin color. The parental cluelessness in Perfect is strong.

My grandparents aren't the most open-/minded people in/the world, she says. He definitely learned/it from them. Her hand skips across/the seat, pounces on/my leg. But, hey, aren't you glad I chose/to break the cycle of hate? (24.62-64)

Jenna's joking, of course, but the truth is that she's perpetuating the cycle of hate against herself by putting herself in dangerous situations. If you like who you are, you tend to protect yourself from harm.

I have to admit/I felt sorry for the guy. He had no idea/that Dad is stuck in the pre-civil rights/era. (26.8-9)

Jenna brings Andre to the restaurant largely as a form of denial about her dad's wedding. She doesn't want to deal with the fact that he's getting remarried, so she creates a distraction—she knows that bringing Andre to the restaurant will make him focus on something other than his much younger fiancée for a minute.

I can't make Jenna's sister stop being a star./I can't change last quarter's report card/so her parents will let/her get her driver's license./I can't insist/her father stop being a racist jerk. (40.6-8)

Andre sees that Jenna's acting out is a way of getting attention, but he can't change the circumstances that make her do it. He also ignores the fact that dating him is one of the ways she's acting out.

His face goes all red, and hatred feeds/his ugly glare. You./This is because of you, you goddamn—/No! Kendra stops him cold. This is not/because of him, Dad./It's because of you! (48.59-60)

Kids act out when their parents ignore them? Say it ain't so! We're glad Kendra finally lays the smack down on her clueless dad, because somebody needed to. Now, if only she could lay the smack down on her agent…