Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Past Perfect by Leila Sales

Goodreads Description: "All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new. 

Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it…"

My Review: Don't read this book for the romance. I'm not kidding. Don't do it. The romance is not particularly cute or inspired. When you meet the new guy who Chelsea's going to fall for, it's obvious in about .03 seconds that he's going to be the new love interest. And he's a nice fellow, he actually has a bit of an interesting back story regarding his own family and struggles, but all in all he's just a Boring Average Nice Guy. I don't really know what he sees in Chelsea and I don't know what she sees in him. They like each other, but why? You never really know. They just think each other is cute and they flirt and then they're in love. Very nondescript and not very special or exciting. 

Read this book for everything else. The plot is actually quite quirky. You don't often see reenactment villages in YA books. As a history nerd, I kind of secretly really loved that aspect. I also love New England with every fiber of my being, so the setting of the book made it even better (even though she never really described anything New England-y about the setting...but the Colonial village kind of clues you in). So the concept of two different reenactment villages having an all-out battle was pretty fun. I always love if when teenagers team up in battles---or fake battles---in books and this book was no different. Waging war? Sneaking around and pulling pranks? Fun! Of course...the amount of actual pranks they pulled wasn't that many. More of the book focused on Chelsea moping around about Ezra and then liking the new guy. So yeah, I wish the book had focused more on the War. 

The cast of secondary characters was really fun, in my opinion. I wish the whole book had focused on them more. Tawny Nelson, Fiona, Nat, even toady Brian (Chelsea's thoughts about him constantly made me laugh; I like a little bit of snark in my heroines). Her parents, especially her dad, stood out as well. I really liked that her dad was kind of obnoxious and crazy and she didn't get along too well with him---but they both still loved each other. It was a departure from the typical extremes we get: either the a-hole jerk dad who hates the kid...or the loving, TV sitcom-y dad who's way too understanding and perfect. Chelsea's dad got on her nerves a lot and was overbearing and she disappointed him a lot...but deep down you knew she loved him and he her. I liked that a lot. I guess I can relate! Not all of us have The Perfect Dad but that doesn't mean our dads are all huge jerks who we hate. Her mom was a bit more lackluster, she didn't play as much of a role. 

I guess what made me not like the book so much was the hyperfocus on the romance---which was pretty plain, as I already stated---and Chelsea herself. Don't get me wrong, she was kind of sassy and I liked that a lot. Like I said, I like female characters who have a bit of bite to them. But Chelsea seemed kind of...over-dramatic and whiny. Like, listen: I understand that you loved Ezra. I really do. But you went out with him for five months when you were sixteen. Get over it. He wasn't a great character anyway (he was clueless and self-centered). Even at the end, when she had her magical epiphany (which also bothered me), she was still like, "No. Ezra was perfect. The only not perfect thing about him was that we fell apart. I don't hate the guy. He's still a good guy." NO, HE'S NOT. He's a creep. So yeah, did not like. Also did not like how Chelsea spent basically the whole book complaining and moaning and groaning about Ezra, her dad, and her life---which was annoying because she's a middle-class girl with nice parents, a summer job, and a good best friend, so why is she so angsty?!---and then all of a sudden at the end she had this strange revelation that totally changed her views on everything. Except the revelation was way too sudden to feel realistic. 

Overall, I liked the originality of the War and reenactment plot, the setting, and most of the side characters. That was the stuff that made the book funny and fun. But the romance and angsty aspect kind of made the book confusing and a bit of a boring downer. So I'd say the book was about average, an entertaining YA read that could have been better. 

Cover: Gotta admit that it's really cute! It's actually stood out to me multiple times at the bookstore and library, I just never got the chance to pick it up till much later. But I really like the color scheme and the simplicity of the girl smiling with the flower in her hair. It's cheerful and cute. 

Overall Grade: B-

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