Her advice, spot on. Her love life, way off.
Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes – for a fee.
Uses her power for good. Most of the time.
Really cannot stand the new Australian jock at school, Alexander Brougham.
Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.
Does not appreciate being blackmailed.
But when Brougham catches Darcy in the act of collecting letters from locker 89 – out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service – that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.
Darcy has good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.
Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could possibly go wrong?
Sophie Gonzales’ Perfect on Paper is her second contemporary YA novel, once again set in the halls of high school and exploring sexuality, friendship, family and budding romance. Earlier this year I read Only Mostly Devastated. and loved it, so I’ve been excited to read this next one from Sophie.
The concept is enticing — Darcy runs an anonymous advice service for fellow students, and she’s very good at it. But when her secret is discovered, she teams up with an unlikely classmate to help him win back his ex-girlfriend. Young readers will devour this one.
“I sent back a text to Brooke. What I wanted to say was abso-fucking-lutely she could come over, as soon as possible, and in fact, she could also move in, and marry me, and mother my children while she was at it, but my extensive study in relationships had taught me wild obsession wasn’t cute.”
Perfect on Paper features bi-sexual representation, and issues around queerness and identity. The chemistry between Darcy and Brougham is evident from the beginning, setting up a really sweet love story between two unlikely allies.
As with her last book, Sophie’s strength lies in her first person narration. We get an immediate and all-encompassing sense of who Darcy is based on her voice and her narration. She’s flawed, yes, and she makes poor choices when she’s blinded by love, but her heart is in the right place even when her mind isn’t. Over the course of the novel, Darcy comes to understand the importance of being honest and owning up to past mistakes. The fallout may be damaging, but in the long run, it’s best for everyone.
Sophie captures that ache you felt as a teenager when the person you loved didn’t feel the same way — even adult readers will be able to relate to Darcy in this way. I think, deep down, Darcy knows Brooke doesn’t like her in that way, and it’s devastating. Darcy is so good at advising others on how to pursue their interests, but she can’t follow her own advice. She struggles to work up the courage to communicate with Brooke about how she’s feeling.
“He held eye contact with me, and I felt like maybe I should be waving, or something? But what if Finn noticed, and asked how we knew each other? And then what if Brougham told him, and Finn told literally everyone he’d ever met, and then my whole life fell apart?”
Darcy’s inner turmoil and emotional pain about not being ‘queer enough’ felt a little underdeveloped in the plot, and subsequently its resolution at the end of the novel felt a little rushed.
Additionally, some of the conversations in the novel ran a little long, and the banter a little dragged out. Whilst conversations felt relatable and authentic, some of them could’ve used some trimming to make scenes more succinct.
“As usual, getting a message from Brooke made me feel like the law of gravity had declined to apply to me for a beat. She was obviously thinking about me instead of doing her homework. How often did her mind wander to me when she started daydreaming? Did it wander to anyone else, or was I special?”
Tender and charming, Perfect on Paper is suitable for teenage readers. 12+
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Perfect on Paper
Hachette Book Publishers