Author: Kate Jarvik Birch
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication date: July 1, 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Dystopia
Source: Arc received from Publisher – thank you!
In a nutshell: Plot lacks a bit of action, but the book is definitely worth reading!
|As soon as the government passed legislation allowing humans to be genetically engineered and sold as pets, the rich and powerful rushed to own beautiful girls like Ella. Trained from birth to be graceful, demure, and above all, perfect, these “family companions” enter their masters’ homes prepared to live a life of idle luxury. Ella is happy with her new role as playmate for a congressman’s bubbly young daughter, but she doesn’t expect Penn, the congressman’s handsome and rebellious son. He’s the only person who sees beyond the perfect exterior to the girl within. Falling for him goes against every rule she knows…and the freedom she finds with him is intoxicating. But when Ella is kidnapped and thrust into the dark underworld lurking beneath her pampered life, she’s faced with an unthinkable choice. Because the only thing more dangerous than staying with Penn’s family is leaving…and if she’s unsuccessful, she’ll face a fate far worse than death. For fans of Kiera Cass’s Selection series and Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series, Perfected is a chilling look at what it means to be human, and a stunning celebration of the power of love to set us free, wrapped in a glamorous—and dangerous—bow.|
Perfected is a book I’ve been dying to read ever since I laid eyes on the cover. It’s both beautiful and creepy in a way — which perfectly reflects the story. And look at the blurb — the story is actually compared to Kiera Cass’ and Lauren DeStefano’s books! Anyways, it just took ten seconds or so and I was sold.
The book starts off with a lot of holding back. I don’t have any other words to explain it, but if you expect something action-packed at the beginning — no chance. The author actually takes a lot of time to introduce us to the Perfected world, where selected pretty girls are trained to become human pets. Basically, they are supposed to be entertaining, to be charming with their beauty and to stay dumb forever.
Ella, our MC, was lucky enough to be raised to become a pet and is finally “adopted” by a rich family where the father happens to be a congressman. The first half of the book actually focuses on how she adapts to her new life. It was almost scary to see that she is actually treated like a pet, meaning she has got all her liberties as long as she never shows any signs of rebellion. Her whole life now depends on her new owners and ultimately, on her beauty. Therefore, she – for instance – has to follow a strict diet plan (she actually has to learn how to eat ice cream (secretly)) and must never question her owners’ decisions and way of thinking.
There were some very cute scenes which included Ella and her playmate Ruby (ok, it is rather vice versa); however, again, I sometimes wished there would have been some more action. It was really sweet to read though, how Ruby sees in Ella some kind of older (yet inferior) sister; for example when she teaches her how to read (which – by the way – is forbidden) or reads fairytales aloud to her. It is those small single signs of rebellion within the family that turn the book into a very interesting read.
In addition, music plays a big role in the book and as an active pianist, I really really liked those scenes where Ella expresses her wrought-up feelings by playing the piano. Music is actually something that both Ella and Penn can connect to; it is a constant and steady theme in their relationship which actually makes the romance really swoon-worthy. For me, Penn was a bit like the drive in the story as he openly messes with his father; he fights against his father’s intentions to become a politician and never gives up following his dream to pursue a career in the (modern) music industry.
I however could not really relate to his and Ella relationship, simply out of the fact that I just cannot understand how you can fall in love with a human pet. Here’s the thing: The story focuses A LOT on Ella’s inner progress, not that much on the external plot (and when I say a lot, I actually really mean it). Now, I do know I’ve already mentioned that but most parts of the book are simply actionless since the author wants the reader to understand Ella’s psyche and mindset for a better understanding of the later scenes. Ella at the beginning, however, was incredibly naive and kind of “backward in development” which was a little bit annoying. I mean, she never openly rebels against the family since she simply does not feel like it; she only feels gratitude towards them. She was raised to be obedient so why should she not? Thus, in a way, I did understand her but yet, I was never able to actually relate to her character since she cannot think independently. I grew to accept her though , but I never came to really like her. She does have her good qualities and she really matures throughout the book.
The author’s style of writing is a very interesting component in the book. It reminded me a bit of Ally Condie’s writing style — it is kept sterile, yet it does not give you a sense of inaccessibility to the story. Here’s the thing: The concept of the book is shocking. What the government is actually doing is would be defined as a violation of the human rights in our society. But that fact + Kate Birch’s writing style make the book totally bizarre! The story makes you question yourself: If you lived in the same world, would you ignore the feelings of other human beings, just because they are labeled as pets?
There are many things the family is hiding from Ella and the author does know how to torture her characters. There were also many scenes – especially those that included the congressman – that made me feel uncomfortable — not necessarily in a bad way. They just clearly illustrate the almost non-existent difference between obedience and obsession. Kate Birch just did a great job in depicting the horrors of a possible future society. But I’m really excited to learn more about the congressman’s family family background (if that makes any sense to you) as well as about Ella’s own personal background.
There is definitely a lot of slow pacing in the first half of the book so I do hope this will actually change in Book 2. Half of the time when I was reading the book I waited for some depth in the story. Some kind of climax but that actually never happend (at least not until you have read two third of the story).
That being said, I really liked the concept of the book. The society is not actively evil, i.e. most rich people do not openly defy human rights; they just have a very disturbing and dysfunctional equality ideology. They do not treat their pets badly (to be honest, pets are spoiled in the househould) but the shocking thing is — if you have reached your expiration date as a pet, you will be treated like trash. This is something that Ella slowly comes to realize — and this is where the story actually started to grip me, making the book unputdownable.
The ending was WOW. New secrets are revealed and so many twists are happening there which left me somewhat breathless. I really didn’t see a lot of things coming — you feel kind of fooled by the story (not in a bad way) since things were incredibly unpredictable, yet totally logical: Kate Birch did a great job in putting all those lose plotlines from the beginning of the book together. Nonetheless, the ending is somewhat dissatisfying. Why? One word. Cliffhanger. It is tremendous. As big as the Niagara Falls. But again, Kate Birch puts some political reality in it, making the ending very authentic but also disturbing. I really liked the way how the ending refers to the beginning of the story again.
Ultimately, I would say that Perfected is a very realistic book and so much different from the dystopias I have ever read. The book would have definitely deserved a higher rating if the beginng and the middle of the story had not been so dragging; nonetheless, I read this book in one sitting. The book clearly shows that the world is not always black and white; that there are actually different shades of evil. These sides however are evened up by a sense of sweetness through Ella’s friendship with Ruby and Penn. Perfected is a book about finding your inner strength although it never becomes cheesy. Would I recommend this book? Yes, definitely!