But now she's a sophomore, and Kate's life is so far from perfect that it's in another state. When Anna came back from her summer vacation, she looked like a different person. Newly thin and blonde, Anna starts hanging out with the popular crowd at school and stops speaking to Kate. Kate's father abruptly quit his job to sell Perfect You infomercial vitamins in a booth at the local mall. Kate is expected to work there after school, and she doesn't get paid for it. In fact, sometimes, she's the only person manning the booth, as her father is prone to wander off to play video games or solicit customers from other stores. Due to her less-than-stellar driving tests, Kate isn't allowed to get a car yet, so she has to rely on her family members to cart her around. Her brother obtained a college degree, then moved back home. Instead of actually getting a job, he sits on the couch and decides he wants to be an actor. Of course, he changes his dream job as often as he changes his socks, so Kate doubts he's serious. To top it all off, a guy at school named Will with a reputation for flirting and leading girls on keeps bugging her.
Kate is conflicted, to say the least. Her first-person narration relates her ups-and-downs with Will, Anna, and her family members. She doesn't want to admit that she likes Will and she certainly doesn't want to get hurt, but she starts to see him anyway. She restricts their time together to mall breaks, not wanting people at school to know about them, and she refuses to let things become serious. She doesn't even know if Will honestly likes her or is just using her like he's used all of the other girls, and she pretends as though she doesn't care either way. She desperately wants to repair her friendship with Anna but isn't sure what it will take to do that. Kate is mortified by her father's antics at the mall, but she suffers these little indignities quietly, not wanting to stir up trouble. She can sense that her parents' relationship, once fun-loving, is starting to get strained. Kate's maternal grandmother comes to visit and ends up staying indefinitely. After taking a second job to make ends meet, Kate's mother is stressed enough, and the addition of her own mother to the household only causes more problems.
Sometimes, all it takes is a good or bad conversation, even one that's ten seconds long, to change your mind and your feelings. Elizabeth Scott (Bloom) writes dialogue that sounds very true to life and very true to teens - remarkably, with minimal swearing and slang. A quick exchange of words with Anna and Kate thinks they are friends again, then a blatant snub in the hallway makes her heart sink. It's hard to have a friend "outgrow" you or otherwise leave you behind. I like that they drifted apart due to their own changes (well, Anna wanting something more and changing herself) rather than being torn apart by some devastating, earth-shattering event. Nevertheless, it still felt devastating to Kate.
By the end of the book, things in Kate's home have changed yet again, and her relationships with Anna and Will are totally different than they were at the beginning of the school year. Kate has to decide whether to hang on or move on.
Recommended for ages 14 and up.
Read my reviews of Elizabeth Scott's other novels, including Bloom, Stealing Heaven, and The Unwritten Rule.
If you liked Bloom and/or you like novels by Sarah Dessen, you'll like Perfect You.
Read my interview with Elizabeth Scott.