Juliet’s life is wonderful. She’s got the family, the grades, and the boyfriend, and they’re all perfect. That is, until her dad moves out and her mom overdoses on her prescriptions. Then things start to go haywire, and Juliet doesn’t know who she is anymore. Add a band, a hot foreign exchange student, and SATs that are literally giving her nightmares, and Juliet starts to wonder if “perfect” is what she really wants after all.
Better Than Perfect tries to be an emotionally intense, ultimately feel-good novel about life imperfect. Juliet, a hard-working, high-achieving teenager aiming for Harvard, starts out too whiny to really hit the “emotionally intense” mark, but her growth as a character does make for a reflective story with which many high-schoolers will identify. Juliet’s actions early in the novel are selfish and insensitive, but as she thinks more about her life and why she does what she does, she also becomes more aware of how her behavior isn’t always fair to others – or herself. As Juliet shifts from brooding towards introspection, the novel loses most (though not all) of its angst, gaining a somewhat more mature perspective that helps achieve that “feel-good” feeling. The ending leaves one question unanswered that will probably drive some readers up the wall, but this fits with Juliet’s new perspective on her life. Overall, Better Than Perfect is a good book with little to dissuade readers from choosing it, but neither does it stand out from the crowd.