Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor
Juliet Newman knows that perfection is hard work.
She studies hard, takes part in all the right activities, and practices hard at swimming, all so she can have the perfect application for Harvard University. She’s a good, responsible daughter in a perfect, beautiful family. And she has the perfect boyfriend – with the same drive and goals as she does. She and Jason have “J power” – and will be at Harvard next year.
But then her parents separate, and Juliet’s perfectly constructed life begins to crack. How can she stay the perfect, devoted, driven daughter when her dad is living 30 minutes away, and her mom is turning into someone she can’t recognize? As Juliet faces these new challenges, she also begins to wonder why she needs to be perfect, and to what end?
I’m not a huge fan of any cheating-related romances, especially without any lessons learned. Juliet blatantly cheats on Jason who, despite a few neurotic flaws, seems to be a decent guy. She doesn’t have any real remorse for it. The romance between Juliet and her love interest wasn’t really relatable to me. She has an instant attraction to him (understandable), but I couldn’t understand why she wanted a relationship with him. Not a huge fan.
Feminist Score: Good Effort
As a hyper-competitive, driven person, I completely related to Juliet. I loved that she was just as (if not more) driven that Jason, and willing to do everything she could to get into Harvard. I loved how she took care of the other people in her life and made her own decisions. This isn’t an adventure book (so we don’t see any bad-ass sword fighting or saving the world), but in the context of a regular high school girl, I think the feminist score is high.
Diversity Score: Not A Bit
There was… no diversity in this book. White, rich high school with white, rich students.(Though, yes, there’s one Asian friend who makes a racist comment about other Asians). Even the transfer student from China is actually a white kid born in London. I wish there was more to say about this… but there isn’t.
Awesome Factor: Good Effort
Despite it’s flaws (see Diversity Score), Better Than Before is a good read. I love high school romance stories with smart, driven characters. And even though I couldn’t completely buy into the romance, I enjoyed the family and school related plot. In a nutshell, this is The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen if Macy was just like Jason.
Juliet. If you can’t tell already, I can really relate to her, especially her need to be a “good girl” – the perfect daughter, student, and Harvard applicant.
“Instead of running away from home, I texted my dad. I told him I was okay. I told him I was with Sofia. I told him I would meet Kathy at the house in the morning. I asked him to stop texting me.
Because I was a good girl. And good girls didn’t throw away their phones or leave home or make their parents worry about them for no reason.”
I really relate to Juliet being a good girl – the struggle between following your emotions and doing the rational, “good” thing. I think that is a struggle a lot of young women deal with, and it was well-described in Better Than Perfect.
Fun Author Fact
Melissa Kantor has a great answer to the question “What’s the craziest thing you ever did to get a boy to like you”.
She moved to Zimbabwe. Check out the full story on her blog.
Read This Next
For another high school romance with competitive characters (well, a crazy competitive boyfriend), check out The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. It’s one of my favorites from high school.
Post Author: Anisha
Anisha loves books, Gilmore Girls, and her Kuerig. She’s been reading mainstream YA since she was actually a young adult, and Jess is helping her expand her horizons with more diverse, interesting books from newer authors.