Book Review: Better Than Perfect

Better Than Perfect
Published By: HarperTeen
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Page Count: 336
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary

Juliet thought she had the perfect life: perfect grades, perfect boyfriend, perfect friends, perfect family. Her world implodes the summer before her Senior Year when her perfect father leaves her perfect mother and abandons the perfect family. Juliet is reeling from her father's absence. She can't help wondering when things went wrong. Her family was the one everyone else envied. Could things have been messed up behind closed doors and she just didn't realize it?

Things take a tragic turn for Juliet when she comes home after a sleepover at her best friend's house to find her mother near death on the bathroom floor. Juliet finds out in the harshest way possible that her mother is an alcoholic who may or may not have tried to commit suicide by overdosing on medication. Juliet finds herself reeling and can't find her footing on her perfect world. All of a sudden everything she thought was true is landing smack in the middle of a puddle of gray. Her world which used to be tightly controlled by strict order is now in chaos. In many ways, Juliet has an emotional breakdown. Her lifelong goal of attending Harvard doesn't seem important anymore. 

To make matters worse, Juliet turns to the comfort of the new boy in town, Declan, the evening she leaves her mother fighting for her life in the hospital. Juliet doesn't understand her choice, but she decides seeking comfort from Declan is the only thing that will get her through the evening - never mind that she has been dating Jason for the past four year. I was frustrated by Juliet's decisions where Declan was concerned. She doesn't give Jason the chance to be for her, but rather she jumps into the arms of the first handsome guy she meets. I have a lot of trouble rooting for a character who cheats. If Juliet loved Jason as much as she claims to throughout the novel, I think she would have stopped to think about her actions or at least been honest with Jason when he returned from his vacation in France.

On top of all the emotional turmoil and relationship drama, Juliet also has family drama to navigate. Her Dad is trying to mend their relationship after the separation, but Juliet pushes him away at every turn. She also doesn't allow her brother or aunt to help her deal with her mother's actions. Juliet seems to build a wall around herself - never letting anyone she cares about to get too close. She spends most of her time blaming others for her actions and how she feels. I wanted her to realize that she was partly to blame as well. She didn't have to be an ostrich with her head stuck in the sand. I also felt like she hid behind her schoolwork and Harvard goal as a way to avoid what was happening with her family.

I did enjoy that this novel forced me to consider the notion of perfect. I am not sure perfection really exists. There is always some flaw or illusion that will distort the image of perfection. In spite of that, many of us seek to achieve perfection. Like Juliet, I placed a lot of pressure on myself in high school. I wanted to be the best at everything I did and make my parents proud. That driven mentality isn't a bad thing, but it did keep me from some experiences. I was always busy preparing for the next test or hurdle on my way to college. I don't know that I truly took the time to be a teenager because I was so focused on what was ahead. I wish I had more balance in my life then and I think by the end of the novel that Juliet decided she needed to find her own sort of balance. 

This novel is an emotional journey for Juliet; she is trying to find her place in the world. I think stories like this one have a lot of value, but my issues with Juliet's choices kept from loving this one. I liked it and it will appeal to readers, but I wanted more. The ending left me feeling hollow. It was supposed to be a hopeful ending, but I just felt like I needed more loose ends tied up. 

All in all, I enjoyed this one and would recommend it to those who enjoy contemporaries that deal with tough issues. Kantor's writing is also worth the time; her characters are real and raw. I think the key to loving this one is to love Juliet. I know that she will resonate with some readers, but she and I just couldn't find common ground.

One Last Gripe: As mentioned in my review, I think Jason deserved better. People grow and change, but that doesn't mean you should cheat on your boyfriend.

Favorite Thing About This Book: The friendship between Juliet and Sofia

First Sentence: "I'm going to miss you."

Favorite Character: Jason

Least Favorite Character: Sean

Juliet Newman has it all. A picture-perfect family; a handsome, loving boyfriend; and a foolproof life plan: ace her SATs, get accepted into Harvard early decision, and live happily ever after.

But when her dad moves out and her mom loses it, Juliet begins questioning the rules she’s always lived by. And to make everything even more complicated there’s Declan, the gorgeous boy who makes her feel alive and spontaneous—and who’s totally off-limits. Torn between the life she always thought she wanted and one she never knew was possible, Juliet begins to wonder: What if perfect isn't all it’s cracked up to be?

Melissa Kantor once again delivers a tale that is equal parts surprising, humorous, heartbreaking, and romantic. Powerful and honest, Juliet’s story brilliantly portrays the highs and lows of life in high school and will resonate with any reader who has experienced either.


  1. Hmm this sounds like it has a lot of tough themes running through it. I would agree that there is no perfect, but it is always good to think about what our perfect is in our opinion.


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