Perfect by Natasha Friend
Isabelle Lee has a problem, and it’s not just Ape Face, her sister, or group therapy for an eating disorder, or even that her father died and her mother is depressed and in denial. It’s that Ashley, the most popular girl in school, is inviting Isabelle to join her at lunch and at sleepovers at her house, and this is presenting Isabelle with a dilemma. Pretty Ashley has moved Isabelle up the social ladder, but is it worth keeping the secret they share?
This is one novel, I think, that handles eating disorders really well – it neither glorifies nor pities them. Instead, it treats the disorders on a variety of levels, from families to friends to school to day-to-day emotions. It stresses that every case is different for every individual, but that there is still the opportunity for coming together. For me, this aspect kept the reading hopeful, despite being bitterly dark, at points.
Reading Perfect is like slogging through chewing the rind of a lemon. At first it’s sweet, and just a story. But the more you chew – read – the more bitter it becomes. You experience the cloud of oh everything’s fine with Isabelle’s family, and then you get to also experience the spiral of unraveling the truth, of needing help, of feeling happy, sad, lonely all at once. And, just like a lemon, it’s refreshing at the end.
I wouldn’t say that the description is entirely accurate. I feel that the story is less about Isabelle being concerned about moving up the social ladder, and more about how she feels after getting to know Ashley and how their secret applies to them both, but differently. It’s a much deeper read than its summary permits. Yes, Isabelle’s only thirteen, and her age is reflected in her actions, speech and thoughts. But there’s still something deep to be found in them, which is what really surprised me. This even applies to her sister, April (Ape Face), who is only ten. Friend accurately captures the hasty development of maturity that the girls learn to acquire, despite their young ages.
Perfect isn’t the happiest read, and it will make you think, but it’s nice for a seemingly honest portrayal of what people of all ages may be going through, for whichever eating disorder.
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