You Asked for Perfect is the perfect mix between a love letter to my teenage self, and a cautionary tale to my present self. It’s one of those books which is about the time when applying for college, but can be broadened to so many different challenges. To overworking, striving for perfection, and the need for balance.
Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard – really hard – to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.
Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.
Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
You Asked for Perfect is a book that I needed as a teenager growing up in the US with the pressure of college. It’s a book I need now to remind me that perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In this way, it perfectly bridges the gap I feel between this over achiever lifestyle that has gotten to me where I am today, and the way I think I want to live. You know where a book falls into your lap at a perfect time, that’s You Asked for Perfect. The irony is not lost on me.
Ari & Co
I love Ari. Ari’s who I would be if I went back in time now and went back to high school. Like a “13 Going on 30” except if I went back in time, not forward, and I’m not 30. So this comparison is unhelpful in a lot of ways isn’t it? Ari is a bisexual Jewish teen who runs, loves music, and is struggling with the challenge of being the ‘perfect’ college candidate. He is fiercely driven with the goal of getting into college. His best friend is also a chubby Korean lesbian and I wish I was as cool as Sook – who is in love with music. I love every single character in this book no exceptions.
And the romance in this book is amazing. It’s full of mistakes, missed connections, and almost perfect moments. I loved how it evolved and interacted with the story. The romance and the themes of the quest for perfection wove in and out with each other. Talking about being focused on the next goal, on the future hurdles, without being able to see the one in our way. Ari also talks about his coming out as bisexual, how he struggled with it, and his family’s acceptance.
And I totally relate to his personality. He is driving himself, into the ground, for the next goal. The next milestone, without seeing the big picture of what his actual dreams are. And I relate so hard to this. I’ve been driving myself into the ground now just for the next goal, but not for the overall dream. I’m not sure where I’m headed and all I’m able to handle is being an overachiever to get to the next in between step. It’s also about all these forces in our life which seem to be demanding perfection. To be put together, straight A’s, and well rounded. In a way I think this book speaks to a lot of American teens where the competition for college is on another level.
In high school I was never like that, but not because I didn’t want to, but because I knew I couldn’t compete. Or I thought I couldn’t. So I quit because the failure was just too much to bear. Even metaphorically. And that’s how I’ve been ever since. Succeeding in what I wanted to, but being unable to accept ‘failure’ or ‘imperfection’. It’s been so hard for me to accept I should take on less, or I can make mistakes. And, to be honest, I still struggle a lot with it.
And this imposter syndrome. Like no matter how many books I review it won’t be enough. That I’m not doing enough for the community. Or that I shouldn’t talk to people about this ‘hobby’. About how much work and effort goes into this that some of the real people in my life don’t understand. Because I don’t feel legit enough to say I’m a book reviewer.
So if a teen can read this, and this can help them get a little perspective, then I know this book will find a great home. We have this idea that success is somehow also supposed to be somewhat effortless. We all love a good underdog, but often we don’t talk to people about the real sacrifices we are making to achieve what people think is success. And so You Asked for Perfect is such a fabulous heartfelt book. There are moments that make you cry, that make you laugh, and smile.
Making a mistake isn’t failure. There’s no such thing as perfect.
And I wish I could grasp that. Even now.