Thank you to Netgalley and Knopf BFYR for sharing a copy in exchange for my honest review!
She’s the beauty, I’m the bold one–together, we are the perfect girl…
Aphra Brown is bold and outgoing. Her best friend, Bethany, is achingly beautiful. Individually, they could both do a little better in the self-esteem department, but together? Together, they have what it takes to win over Greg D’Agostino, a proverbial “ten,” who happens to be fluent in six languages–seven if you count the language of smoldering gazes . . .
What begins as an honest mistake turns into an elaborate deception, wherein Bethany goes on dates with Greg while Aphra coaches her on what to say, and texts him in the guise of Bethany, trying and failing, all the while, to tamp down her own hopeless crush. It’s only a matter of time before things come crashing down. The question is: What will happen when Greg finds out? And can Aphra and Bethany’s friendship survive the fallout?
From the author of We Regret to Inform You comes a witty, warm-hearted exploration of love in all its forms, and a cris-de-coeur for self-acceptance when the pressure to be perfect is overwhelming.
First, I want to apologize for the extreme lateness of this review. I am deeply grateful to Knopf for sharing a copy of We Are the Perfect Girl.
We Are the Perfect Girl is a must-read of 2019. Featuring incredible character development, complex families and friendships, and a little bit of romance (if you squint at the end), it’s one of my new favorite novels. From the beginning, I was intrigued by the fact that this is a retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac. I love reading YA novelizations of plays. It’s interesting to see how authors interpret characters and translate the themes into a modern setting. Kaplan completely succeeded in capturing my attention.
I had to reread this book twice before I could write any sort of review. I cried both times—I have little in common with Aphra, but I identified with her just the same, and couldn’t help but love her by the end. She’s incredibly complex, and though sometimes she makes questionable choices, you can’t help but root for her. I loved reading about how she viewed herself in relation to her loved ones. A big part of this novel is about self esteem, and Aphra learning to both stand up for herself and also think about other people, which is an easily relatable struggle for readers. She is simultaneously assertive and selfless, and it hurt so much every time Aphra chose to prioritize someone else over herself. Characters like Aphra, who who learn from their mistakes and self reflect over the course of a novel, are easily some of my favorites to read because they give the reader a chance to understand them in a way we often can’t with other real-world people.
As she’s written, Aphra is a really natural teenager. I noticed this especially in her crush on Greg—her observations, the things she remembers and references about him might seem inconsequential to anyone else, but those details matter so much to her. That’s very authentic, and Kaplan has truly captured a teen voice in Aphra. A high point of the book is its humor. Aphra's chat transcripts were genuinely funny, as was much of the narration. I laughed out loud at the “eat-the-pilot” scene, as well as many others. The clever writing and fresh dialogue hit the mark every time, which is especially important in this story and balanced out some of the heavy emotions and raw insecurities that Silverman explored.
I love the balance between Aphra, her friendships, and her family. Each relationship is so complex and given equal attention. I think my favorite dynamic is between Aphra and Bethany. They are the main characters, but I think a great choice of narration is the first person perspective solely for Aphra. It truly emphasizes some of the more unhealthy aspects of their relationship, as well as giving a window into all the good times they’ve had together. Aphra makes some questionable choices, but while I was reading I could tell the foundation of their friendship was solid. This gave me constant hope that Aphra and Bethany would be honest with each other and learn to properly communicate, which would make for an even better best-friendship.
Aphra’s family seems tough to live with, but I enjoyed seeing her relationship with them grow through the book. The sibling relationships especially got me. Kit is a super cute younger brother, and I liked that he and Aphra had a good relationship. She and Delia, however, is another story. They have a fraught relationship that turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the book, showing how family members’ choices can have a real effect on people. I was constantly rooting for Aphra and Delia to communicate and work towards understanding one another.
In terms of plot, the natural tension of whether Bethany and Greg will find out about Aphra’s deception is fantastic. Kaplan has such a great way of turning up the dial every time you think Aphra’s off the hook. I waffled between savoring every scene and wanting to find out what happened next, every time. Of course, some plot points are easy to predict because of the retelling aspect, but Aphra is a great character and narrator, and it was a joy to read her perspective on the events. That made the book feel new and original.
My favorite part of the book that isn’t about character or plot is probably the positive representation of mental health professionals. I liked that Aphra went to therapy and respected her need to be there. She also showed real improvement, which is positive messaging in and of itself. I like the notion in novels that young adults can’t solve every mental health problem themselves. One thing that always angers me is when characters try to love each other out of their issues. No! Therapy! Talk to adults! Silverman totally gets this, and Aphra is all the better for it. I think mental health professionals are extremely underrepresented in YA books, but I hope that trend is coming to a close.
I cried throughout the last two chapters of this novel. The ending is so emotionally resonant, and I think readers leave Aphra in a fantastic place. I grew to love her so much over the course of the story, and it was so rewarding to watch her grow and display vulnerability in the way she ends with. Finishing the novel, reading those last few pages… I felt like I was in a world of my own. By the end, loving Aphra felt like self-love, in a way. I couldn’t help but adore how Kaplan closed out the story, but I also wished I could have more! I will definitely be rereading We Are the Perfect Girl for years to come. It earns 5/5 stars for me. My only regret is that I can’t rate it higher.
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.
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