Perfect by Ellen Hopkins
I’d say “spoiler alert” but if you’ve read Impulse, then you already know how this book ends.
When I first heard there was going to be a companion novel for Impulse, I got really excited. Impulse was actually one of my favorite books of hers even though a lot of people disagreed. I don’t know. I just cared about those characters more than I’d ever cared for her other characters. I was really hoping that Tony, Vanessa and Connor would get better. And Tony and Vanessa did. But unfortunately, Connor didn’t. And I felt Connor had the most depth of all three of those characters because so many layers were revealed as the story went on. Not to say the other characters didn’t have layers revealed too. They definitely did. But I felt Connor learned more about himself than either Tony or Vanessa did about themselves. What I find most interesting was that Vanessa and Tony were so blatantly messed up (especially Vanessa) from the very beginning, but Connor was just kind of, “I mean…okay. He tried to kill himself…but why?” And you gradually begin to learn more as the story goes on.
Tony was struggling with his identity and Vanessa had her bi-polar and schizophrenic episodes. But at least they were loved. Connor wasn’t. At least, it didn’t seem so. Until “Perfect” came out.
I felt both stories correlated perfectly with each other. Perfect was with a completely different cast of characters, except, they all knew Connor. Perfect and Impulse both occur during the same time frame. So while Perfect is happening, Connor is still alive.
It features his twin sister Cara who we heard a lot about during Impulse. His ex-girlfriend who is still in love with him, Kendra. His ex-teammate Sean. And Andre who has nothing to do with Connor, but interconnects with the other characters by dating Kendra’s sister.
Normally, my favorite chapters are the male perspective ones because they’re more likeable. In Impulse, the Connor chapters were my favorite. In Tricks, the Cody chapters were my favorite. (I didn’t care much for Seth in Tricks. I liked him as a character, but his storyline was really boring. And I loved Tony in Impulse, I just loved Connor more.) But for some reason, the female perspectives were my favorite in this story. I mean, I did feel sympathy for the male characters too. Even Sean, despite all he did. Because even though Sean did terrible things to Cara, he wouldn’t have done them if he weren’t on those drugs. He was heartbroken, but that was amplified into anger. And once he began to have audible hallucinations, I kind of knew there were a lot of things out of his control. Though, the Sean chapters were my least favorite. Because whether or not he was in control, he brought all those problems upon himself. Nobody told him to do drugs or become obsessed with Cara. He did that all on his own.
The Andre chapters were okay. I really loved Andre as a person. If he were real, I’d totally date him. He was such a sweetheart and just an overall passionate and caring person. But his chapters were just really boring. They were all about Jenna being drunk or a slut. Occasionally, he would dance.
Kendra’s chapters were probably my favorite because her problem really exemplified the purpose of the book. She thought nothing of herself. She starved herself to a point that the doctors refused to do surgery on her nose because her body couldn’t take the anesthesia. She was literally obsessed with perfection and she let it take over her life. Reading Kendra’s story felt like I was watching a friend gradually destroy themselves until they crumbled into nothing. By the end of it, even Sean wondered if Kendra would have the same end as Connor.
The Cara chapters were interesting to read because Cara was a character so often mentioned in Impulse, but never really thought of too much. It was interesting to see that while Connor was crumbling at Aspen Springs, Cara was having an identity crisis at home. While Connor was learning who he was, Cara was finding herself as well. Connor and Cara had parallel journey’s, really, as they both began to discover the real person underneath their own skin. I just wish Cara was able to do so without the pressure Sean was throwing at her. I wish she and Dani could have had a stable and happy relationship without the complications. But in the end, it all worked out for her. Because she accepted herself and she was okay with the fact that she was in love with a girl.
Overall, every single character attended Connor’s funeral and took something away from it. That if they all continued on the path they were on, they could end up like him. That there were always worse things in the world than what they were facing. That no matter how much they may hate themselves, there’s always someone who believes in them. So many different messages were thrown around and it took Connor’s death for it to sink in.
In the end, Sean decided to get off the drugs. Andre decided to come clean to his parents about his passion as a dancer. Cara accepted herself for who she was. Kendra, well, her ending was vague. But I’m sure seeing the love of her life in a casket was a wake up call. And it may take days, weeks or even months…but I think Kendra is going to get better.
My favorite part was definitely the funeral when Vanessa and Tony spoke. Their reaction was something I was hoping for, and when we finally got it, it was everything I wanted and more. They took the words right out of my mouth. They basically stood there and, without knowing, spoke personally to all four of those characters. Vanessa basically told everyone that they didn’t know the real Connor. The one we got to see find himself in Impulse. Tony told them that perfection and living up to expectations was playing it safe, and that was what caused Connor to die. Because he became a shell of a person after reading that letter from his mom.
I thought the book had a perfect ending. Exactly the same as Impulse, it ended with a blank page that said nothing but: …a perfect paper airplane.
I’m glad Vanessa and Tony gave Cara the reason for Connor’s suicide. Maybe it can change her family for the better. They could love each other for who they are rather than what they can do. Like how Vanessa and Tony loved Connor. Like how every one of these characters needed to be loved in order to prevent any of the story’s bad events from occurring.
The story was definitely powerful. Mostly because Ellen Hopkins writes in a way that makes all these people feel like your friends. You’re not reading a fictional story. You’re following someone in their life. You love and care for these characters deeply. And despite how horrible they might be, you can’t help but love them anyways.
I think Perfect and Impulse both went perfectly with one another. They showed two different endings for a similar problem. They were parallels. Impulse was what could have subsequently followed Perfect if these four people didn’t get the reality check they were given. And that’s what made both of these books so incredible.
“I can see why she feels left behind. Maybe even discarded. Is that why she refuses to accept my love and return it? Afraid that love doesn't last? Doesn't really exist? Afraid if her own father can withdraw his love (or at least the manifestation of his love), that maybe she isn't worthy of the emotion?”—
Perfect by Ellen Hopkins