Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mini Review: Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch

Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Expected Pub. Date: July 1, 2014
Genre: YA/Dystopian
Source/Format: Entangled Teen/E-galley
From Goodreads:

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.
Thanks to Entangled Teen for providing a copy of Perfected in exchange for an honest review.

When I first read the summary for Perfected, I was immediately reminded of Lauren DeStefano's Wither and Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, both of which revolve around women trapped in societies that treat them as little more than objects. Unfortunately, Perfected lacked the high stakes that made its predecessors so compelling. My biggest struggle while reading Perfected was that I was just...well, bored. While I felt sorry for Ella, I never really connected with her. She lacked the fire of other YA dystopian heroines, like Katniss Everdeen or Tris Prior or Juliette Ferrars. At no point did I feel fully emotionally invested in their stories. Another element that made the book boring for me was the incomplete world-building. From what I could tell, the story seems to take place during the present day, but I was never quite sure. Also, there's no backstory to set up how genetic engineering came about, or why. I'm still not even sure what "genetic engineering" means--are the pets clones? Are they birthed from surrogate mothers and then handed over to the kennels? And even if they are genetically engineered, how does that make them less human?

When I wasn't bored with the story, I was genuinely creeped out by the way Ella and the other pets were treated, particularly by men. Some passages were enough to make my skin crawl. Essentially, these human pets are treated like dogs; they're raised in "kennels," given I.D. tags, implanted with homing microchips, and sent off to their new homes with "care instructions" for their owners. At the kennels, Ella has been taught to believe that the pets are taken into their owners' homes to be displayed and admired. But as Ella adjusts to life with the congressman and his family, she quickly realizes she has been ill-prepared for life as a pet. Men leer at her, women look down upon her, and children treat her like a life-size doll. But rather than drawing me into the story and Ella's plight, these details only served to distract me. It just seemed too surreal that these girls were being treated this way, and I couldn't understand how it was being allowed to happen. I think that if Birch had provided us with some backstory, that would have at least helped to explain the mindset and justification behind the movement to create human pets.

Much as I hate giving a book a negative review, Perfected and I just didn't gel. That's not to say that other YA readers won't enjoy Ella's story, but it wasn't for me.

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