30 Books in 30 Days, Vol. 2
I haven’t read a really solid, really good bordering on great contemporary YA novel in what feels like a really long time. Actually, I just scrolled back through my GR reading challenges, and the last really good/great YA contemporary I read was Concrete Rose back in January 2021. So it has been a while!
Perfect on Paper isn’t life-changing or anything, it’s just a really well done YA novel, a classic of the form. It certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s waving the queer flag hard on biphobia, either. Our main character, Darcy, runs a secret school-wide advice service called Locker 89 (because kids drop their questions into the forever-empty locker 89) and she sends them an email within 24 hours with her advice. She is charging them $10 per advice, and offers refunds if her advice doesn’t work. She is actually really good at it. (We get letters and her responses at the beginning of every handful of chapters. I loved those bits so much!) Darcy has also been in love with her best friend Brooke for ages, but can’t seem to take her own advice in how to win Brooke’s heart romantically and not just as a friend. She’s also very active in the Queer & Questioning Club, a club started by her older (trans) sister Ainsley, who was maybe my favorite character. Definitely my favorite side character, at the least. (She’s a fashion YouTuber, and she’s over the top in the best way. They have such a sweet sibling relationship.)
All of that is tough enough, but soon popular kid Alexander Brougham (who is from Australia and goes by Brougham) finds out that Darcy is behind Locker 89 and blackmails her into helping him win back his ex-girlfriend, Winona, who dumped him for smothering her. Darcy agrees to help him, and they bicker and banter and slowly get to know one another. You can see where this is going.
What I liked most about this book (besides how effortless the queer rep was) was its emotional nuance. Nothing is black and white here, and because Darcy is such a thoughtful person (especially one who is diligent in researching how to give advice, which includes learning about psychology as well as relationship dynamics, etc) we are treated to a lens to look at her world that is also thoughtful and smart. Not to say she doesn’t fuck up, because boy does she ever, but nothing ever feels over the top. It’s always grounded in real, human emotion. And I love that the author decided to stick it even harder to the biphobics of the world by making her bisexual female protagonist fall in love with a dude (a lovely dude, one must mention). There is an entire chapter dedicated to loudly proclaiming to all that yes, Darcy, you will still be queer if you have a boyfriend! It was so heartwarming.
I liked this so much I will actually be buying myself a copy to revisit. Will definitely seek out more books by Sophie Gonzales as well (I really liked her co-written with Cale Dietrich boy band romance that I read last year as well, but I actually liked this one better).