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Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales

“A love letter to high school relationships, Sophie Gonzales’s Perfect on Paper is perfect and unputdownable.”

Cecelia Beckman Sheaf & Ink
From the Publisher: Wednesday Books

Dear Reader, As a parent, I want you to know that you matter. If you have questions or concerns about your mental health, relationships, your body, identity, or your family situation and need help, seek out a trusted adult whom you feel comfortable confining in. If it’s not a parent or relative try talking to your school counselor. I’ll have resources at the end of this review.

The Story

Darcy Phillips is a dating/relationship advice expert.  She runs a questionable small business at her high school, using an unused locker as a means to communicate with her clientele.  Locker 89 is where students seek love advice by slipping anonymous letters to Darcy and has done so for the past two years.

Until everything turns upside down. Alexander Brougham (the hot Australian born senior) catches Darcy in the act of getting her letters. He then blackmails her into helping him get his ex-girlfriend back.

My Review: Perfect on Paper

Author Becky Albertalli’s praise for Gonzales latest novel, “Perfectly Wonderful” is exactly how I would describe Perfect on Paper.  I enjoyed everything about this book and more.

I often find the books I read where I take notes are the ones I end up falling head over heels for.  Where I map out my reaction of certain passages, noting the deep feelings and emotions they caused and the memorable lines I wanted burned into memory.  Where a love sick boy seeks out and hires the main character to be his relationship coach to get his ex-girlfriend back, but possibly falls for the main character instead??? In my notes I wrote: “melt my heart; internally screaming if this actually happens!”

Okay, so the first thing that popped into my head when I was reading Darcy’s letter’s that are scattered throughout the book like stars in an unlit sky, was of the radio show Love Line back in the 1990’s (which apparently is still on air).

My husband said he used to listen to Love Line when he was in high school. He was drawn into the questions people had about relationships and Dr. Drew’s advice. Plus the added bonus of the hilarious dynamic between the hosts, especially Adam Carolla. It was a way to get relationship advice when you didn’t have anyone else to ask.

My Thoughts

Now, I know Darcy is not a licensed physician and there are a number of legal and ethical reasons for not running an anonymous relationship advice service through a school, but the advice she does give is helpful.  With this in mind, there were many exceptional aspects about this book I adored, including the letters Darcy received and responded to. 

What was most profound was how Gonzales explores friendship (both plutonic and romantic).  Perfect on Paper dives into the depths of what it means to be a friend.  How sometimes the water is dark and murky, unsure of what our friends actually wants versus what we want for them.  And as we dive deeper our lungs burning, desperate for oxygen, we see how far we would go for those we care about.  Craving the closeness, respect, and acceptance like a diver coming up for air.

It’s how Gonzales shows those layers of friendship that makes this novel perfect.  Like pealing back an onion piece by piece, your senses fully aware of each layer being pulled back as the story unfolds.  You feel the sting of uncertainty and rejection, your eyes watering with tears.  While also tasting the full flavors of the unexpected and the delight that a new found friendship can mean.

“So maybe I didn’t always get things right, about myself, or about others. And maybe a part of learning my place in the world was about accepting that I wouldn’t always have the answers, and I wouldn’t always be the hero in every scenario, and maybe I wouldn’t win everything I attempted.”

Sophie Gonzales, Perfect on Paper

A Few More Thoughts

The absolute beauty of this novel is the LGBTQ representation.  For this reason, I love how Gonzales focuses on friendship.  Because that’s what high school is all about.  Making those friendships that build on who you surround yourself by and how you see yourself with and without those people in it.  It feels personal, relatable.  It shows the solidarity of having a safe space for being Queer, with representation across the spectrum.  And Gonzales does not shy away from the truth of social discrimination and homophobia, particularly when it comes to being bisexual.

Darcy herself is Bi.  And as a bisexual teenager she experiences homophobia in a different way, one that in essence delegitimizes her queerness because her sexual orientation is both male and female.  As the reader we experience those fears and anxieties first hand.  Doubting herself and fearing that the Queer community won’t accept her as Queer if she’s in a relationship with a straight or bisexual boy.   But the underlining message is clear by the end of the novel.  That everyone, regardless of sexual or gender orientation, wants one thing: to be accepted.

One Last Thought

“We’re told that our sexuality isn’t real, or that we’re straight if we’re with another gender, and that our feelings don’t count if we’ve never dated a certain gender, that kind of crap. Then we hear it so many times we doubt ourselves.”

Sophie Gonzales, Perfect on Paper

Perfect on Paper is extraordinary.  Gonzales paints real people into her stories with dysfunctional families, complicated relationships, and characters who could be a reflection of ourselves or people we care about and know.

This is a read you won’t want to miss.

Happy Reading ̴ Cece

RATING: ink blotink blotink blotink blot – Exceptionally Inked

From the Publisher: Wednesday Books

Author: Sophie Gonzales

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication Date: March, 2021

Pages: 352

ISBN-10:  1250769787

ISBN-13:  978-1250769787

Audience: 13 and up

Jacket Illustration & Design: Jonathan Bush

You can find Perfect On Paper at Macmillan Publishers.

Similar Books to Perfect on Paper Recommended by Sheaf and Ink

Only Mostly Devastated
Only Mostly Devastated, Sophie Gonzales

You Have a Match
You Have a Match, Emma Lord

You Should See Me in a Crown
You Should See Me in a Crown, Leah Johnson

Need More Book Recommendations?

Sheaf & Ink has reviewed a number of Young Adult novels in contemporary fiction like Perfect on Paper. Read Only Mostly Devastated and You Have A Match and You Should See Me in a Crown reviews to find your next favorite book and join the conversation. We love hearing from you.

Only Mostly devastated by Sophie Gonzales

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Resources after reading Perfect on Paper

Sheaf & Ink feels strongly in supporting teens with their mental health. Perfect on Paper discusses divorce, substance abuse, homophobia and biphobia, relationships, and mental health. If at any time you are in need of support please go to one of these resources listed below to seek help:

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

For more information visit the website or call: 1-800-662-4357

Counseling Resources

Teen Line

Teen Line offers peer-to-peer counseling for teens.

CALL: 310-855-4673

TEXT: TEEN to 839863

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 to talk or text.

CALL: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

Crisis Text Line: text “hello” to 741741.

LGBT National Help Center

The LGBT National Help Center is a non-profit organization, dedicated to meeting the needs of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community and those questioning their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Call LGBT National Help Center:

1-888-843-4564 (adults)

1-800-246-7743 (youth)

The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project hotline, for LGBTQIA youth in crisis is available 24/7.

CALL: 1-866-488-7386.

National Institute of Mental Health

National Institute of Mental Health website on mental health resources. If you or someone you know has a mental illness, is struggling emotionally, or has concerns about their mental health, there are ways to get help.

Domestic Violence Resource Center

Domestic Violence Resource Center empowers all individuals and families to have safe and healthy relationships.

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