Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales

“Setting aside the messiness of which accents were considered sexy in which cultures and why, accents in general were nature’s way of saying, “Procreate with that one, their gene code must be varied as f—.” Few things, it seemed, could turn a person on as quickly as the subconscious realization they almost certainly weren’t flirting with a blood relative.”

– Sophie Gonzales, “Perfect on Paper”

Review:

Perfect on Paper, by Sophie Gonzales, tells the story of Darcy Phillips, high school student and secret relationship coach. For the past few years, Darcy has been getting extra income in exchange for her anonymous relationship advice. But when heartthrob Alexander Brougham catches her collecting her letters from Locker 89, where she’s been running her secret business, he doesn’t rat her out. Does blackmail her, a little bit, but then he does something surprising; he hires her at an exorbitant hourly rate to be his relationship coach. He wants his ex-girlfriend back and he’s willing to spend big bucks to make it happen.

As good as Darcy is with her advice (she has a 95% success rate), her own love life has fallen off the rails. She’s hopelessly in love with her best friend, Brooke, but can’t seem to work up the courage to say anything. Brooke is a lesbian, so that’s not an issue, but Darcy just can’t risk losing their friendship. Besides, if Brooke wanted Darcy, wouldn’t she have said something a long time ago? And if she knew the truth, would she ever even talk to Darcy again?

Darcy’s got her secrets in this book and the reader comes to discover them all relatively quickly. It makes Darcy an unlikable main character. Brougham is alright enough, but there’s nothing interesting about him, and I can only read about how his shirt clings to his skin after he gets out of the pool for so long before I wonder if he’s got anything more going for him than some nice abs.

The book picks up steam after the first half. I don’t mean that in a “steamy” way though. This book is about as clean as it can get, (aside from Brougham’s constant wet t-shirt issues). There are a couple of kisses in the book, but nothing sexual.

I think that’s a pretty smart call on the author’s part. The main character, Darcy, is bisexual, and a large part of the last half of the book deals with her internalized biphobia and bisexual erasure. By not including anything “objectionable” in her book, Gonzales keeps parent and student focus on the real issue. Any outrage or issues with this book stem from the very biphobia that the book addresses.

Even though, as an adult reader, this book didn’t grab me like it might the target age, I can still appreciate it. I think the conversations this book can spark are extremely worthwhile. I haven’t seen many other books that tackle the specific issues that this one does, and Gonzales manages to do so without ever feeling preachy. It’s just a feel-good teen book at heart, and the friendship drama will be relatable to just about all readers.

“I was with them and they were with me and we were with each other. A community within a community within a community. No questions asked. No proof needed. No valid form of identification required. We just belonged because we belonged.”

– Sophie Gonzales, “Perfect on Paper”

Pros:

  • A quick read that doesn’t get too bogged down
  • Realistic and relatable friendship and relationship fears and issues
  • A healthy look into childhood trauma, attachment styles, and bisexual erasure

Cons:

  • The first half drags and is a bit boring.
  • The main character is not all that likable, at least not for the majority of the story
  • The ending is a bit over the top

Rating:

  • ⭐⭐⭐

“I swallowed, and scanned the faces staring up at me. No one looked judgy or irritated, even though it felt like such a stupid, trivial thing to bring up. The fear of passing as straight, for god’s safe.”

– Sophie Gonzales, “Perfect on Paper”

Recommended For:

  • those working through friendship or relationship drama
  • Bisexual teens looking for validation
  • anyone wanting a relatively clean, quirky, high school romance

Books to Read if You Loved Perfect on Paper:

Let’s Discuss! (Pick a question and drop a comment with your reply!)

  • Which is harder to confront, internalized or externalized prejudice?
  • Who is qualified to give “good” advice?
  • This book talks a lot about attachment styles. Are you familiar with that theory and what do you think about it?

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