For fans of History is All You Left Me and Love, Hate and Other Filters comes a new and timely novel from Laura Silverman about a teen’s struggle when academic success and happiness pull him in opposite directions.
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.
You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman will be published by Sourcebooks Fire on March 5th 2019. I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
No trigger warnings.
Let’s be honest; who hasn’t struggled with school when it comes to grades and exams and university applications. Even just reading the blurb for You Asked for Perfect I knew I’d be able to identify with Ariel’s character because a book about “a teen’s struggle” with “academic success” could have been written solely for me. Of course there’s a cute romance in this book, but at its heart You Asked for Perfect is a story about Ariel as he’s pulled in too many different directions.
“I’ve been so busy racing to the finish line, I haven’t thought much about what happens when I cross it.”
On the surface Ariel has it all figured out; he’s first chair violin with the highest GPA in his year and he’s applying to Harvard, something his parents share with everyone who asks. But Ariel’s future comes crashing down when he fails a Calculus quiz. Ariel keeps his bad mark from his friends, terrified one of them will snatch the title of valedictorian from his grasp, and his family, scared of being a failure in their eyes.
A lot of this book was Ariel’s downward spiral. He wants people to believe his intelligence and grades, everything else he does to make himself Harvard material, comes effortlessly because when he looks around at all the other people in his AP classes that’s how he sees them handling everything. However this just causes him to pile more and more pressure on himself, with every aspect of his life he manages to ‘right’ two more quickly fall to pieces; his Calculus grade improves but he faces losing first chair violin, he starts a relationship with Amir only to disappoint his best friend.
“I’m sorry.” I tug my backpack strap. “I’m sorry about the other day. I was a jerk. This school pressure, it’s been a lot for me. I know you’re not as affected by it…”
“Ariel. What? I’m as affected as you.”
“Of course, I am! I’m a person, Ariel.” She shakes her head.
When his guidance counsellor suggests hiring a tutor to help Ariel study Calculus he asks Amir, on the condition the other boy keeps their lessons a secret. Ariel has never gotten along with Amir, only really seeing him from a distance or at their sisters’ soccer games, but that was because he didn’t know him well. I loved seeing their relationship develop, seeing Amir open up to Ariel as they spent more time together, it was a really sweet storyline which was sorely needed as the rest of this book was stressful.
All of the relationships in this book were strong and really well-written; Ariel has a very close and open family, he’s actively involved in his religious community, and he has plenty of friends he can rely on. However the stress Ariel was suffering under, and what he was putting himself through to maintain his ‘perfect’ image, caused a lot of cracks to show which only widened when Ariel was pushed past his limits.
One relationship I wasn’t a fan of was that between Ariel and his best friend Sook. I know the point of this book was that everyone was suffering under the weight of their own goals and dreams, that everyone has a limit and everyone struggles with the same things Ariel was, but Sook struck me as really selfish. She bulldozed the people around her, and it was like she believed her dreams should have more weight for other people than their own, and by the end it wasn’t like much had changed; maybe her end goal had been adjusted but her attitude hadn’t.
“I think of all my classmates, bent over textbooks, shoulders strained under heavy backpacks, eyes hooded from lack of sleep. We’re all in it together, whether we want to be or not.”
There was some brilliant representation in this book. Ariel was gay (and I really liked how his being gay wasn’t a plot point, Ariel didn’t struggle with his sexuality it was simply a part of his character the same way his eye or hair colour was) and Jewish, and his religion was always there in the background of the story. Asides from Ariel all the other characters had something to set them apart; I’m struggling to come up with one character in this book who was straight and white.
“I shouldn’t have to rethink my entire future because AP classes force us to rush through the material.” He sighs. “They make us think the grade is more important than the learning, and that’s messed up. We’re all overwhelmed. You’re not alone.”
You Asked for Perfect is a story I strongly identified with, in fact at times I found myself feeling stressed out just reading it. I really empathised with Ariel’s struggles because they were struggles I used to have when I was in high school, struggles I think everyone must have had in some shape or form. I really enjoyed this book, it was well written and for me a really powerful read too, and I will definitely be picking up more of Laura Silverman’s book (Girl Out of Water is currently sitting on my TBR list waiting for me to get around to it).
Have you read You Asked for Perfect, or is it still on your TBR list?
Did you identify with Ariel’s character, finding yourself getting more and more stressed as he was while reading? What did you think of the friendship between Ariel and Sook, did you enjoy their dynamic or like me were you not a fan of Sook?
Have you read Laura Silverman’s Girl Out of Water, and if so did you enjoy it?