Author: Kate Jarvik Birch
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: 07/01/14
From the publisher—
Perfection comes at a price.
As soon as the government passed legislation allowing humans to be genetically engineered and sold as pets, the rich and powerful rushed to own beautiful girls like Ella. Trained from birth to be graceful, demure, and above all, perfect, these “family companions” enter their masters’ homes prepared to live a life of idle luxury.
Ella is happy with her new role as playmate for a congressman’s bubbly young daughter, but she doesn’t expect Penn, the congressman’s handsome and rebellious son. He’s the only person who sees beyond the perfect exterior to the girl within. Falling for him goes against every rule she knows…and the freedom she finds with him is intoxicating.
But when Ella is kidnapped and thrust into the dark underworld lurking beneath her pampered life, she’s faced with an unthinkable choice. Because the only thing more dangerous than staying with Penn’s family is leaving…and if she’s unsuccessful, she’ll face a fate far worse than death.
For fans of Keira Cass’s Selection series and Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series, Perfected is a chilling look at what it means to be human, and a stunning celebration of the power of love to set us free, wrapped in a glamorous—and dangerous—bow.
Sometimes you come across a book whose theme stops you in your tracks. Perfected is just such a book. We’ve seen many interpretations of humans controlling and manipulating other humans, usually young girls, but breeding them to be pets is something else entirely. Most of us love animals and think of our pets as part of the family but what if some of those pets were actually human?
So much about Ella’s world is so wrong from the day these girls are born (and isn’t it telling that they’re apparently all girls?). To be born into a kennel and raised in caged conditions before going into training is horrendous but the actual training is worse. Only the education that’s necessary to make them docile and beautiful and appealing is offered; no thought is given to teaching them to read or to giving them more than the most rudimentary knowledge of life. They are, indeed, viewed as nothing more than dogs or cats or whatever we might keep as pets.
Ella is a striking character with her naivete and her fear of displeasing her owner and her dismay as she learns what she doesn’t know, like how to swim or how to read. Her curiosity is somewhat limited, though, and I think that might be the most telling thing about her, giving us insight into how being under other people’s control for so long can damage the natural curiosity we all have. Her developing relationship with Penn, a truly nice guy, is unforced and quite believable and what he’s willing to do for Ella makes him a real hero in my eyes. As for the rest of the family, they’re all so well-drawn, likeable or not, that they seem very real. The congressman, of course, makes a truly unpleasant villain, especially since he sees nothing wrong with keeping people in luxurious slavery.
Ms. Birch does a really nice job of depicting the world of pets with humans substituted and, in all honesty, there are shades of questioning the validity of our keeping pets at all as well as very subtle comparisons to slavery. Really, my only quibbles with the story have to do with worldbuilding because there is almost none. We don’t know when this takes place although there are many hints that it’s intended to be the very near future as there are still television, normal cars, gas stations, border patrols, etc. We also don’t know how it came about that Congress could possibly pass such legislation, no real evidence of what the government is like. I’d like to know so much more to get the full effect of the story.
Now, about the ending…I honestly don’t know whether it was intended to be a humdinger of a cliffhanger that will be resolved in future books or simply an invitation for readers to use their own imaginations about what will happen next. Either is acceptable to me but I’m selfishly hoping there are going to be more books 😉
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2014.
About the Author
Kate Jarvik Birch is a visual artist, author, playwright, daydreamer, and professional procrastinator. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be either a unicorn or mermaid. Luckily, being a writer turned out to be just as magical. Her essays and short stories have been published in literary journals including Indiana Review and Saint Ann’s Review. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and three kids. To learn more visit www.katejarvikbirch.com
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