April 18, 2014 by Bernadette ~ The Bumbling Bookworm
Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown
Publisher/Year: Little, Brown Books, 16 April 2013 (originally published 10 July 2012)
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: I borrowed it from the library!
Other books from author: Hate List, Bitter End, Thousand Words, Torn Away (coming May 2014)
Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him to live a life of carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra can stand out next to Grayson is to be perfect, and she has perfection down to an art — until a cheating scandal threatens her flawless reputation.
Behind the wheel of her car, with Grayson asleep beside her, Kendra decides to drive away from it all — with enough distance, maybe she’ll be able to figure everything out. But eventually, Kendra must stop running and come to terms with herself, her brother, and her past.
With undeniable grace and humor, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown explores OCD, the pressure for perfection, and the emotional highs and lows of a complex sibling relationship.
What I Thought…
The synopsis promises “the emotional highs and lows of a complex sibling relationship,” and Brown certainly delivers this in Perfect Escape. The older sibling, Grayson, has been living with OCD, depression, anxiety disorders and “God knows what else” from a very young age, far younger than any person should have to deal with these issues. The younger sibling, Kendra, has never felt important enough in her parents’ eyes as a result, and she therefore strives for perfection. However, when she begins to struggle at school, she will do anything to maintain that perfect. Scandal erupts, threatening her perfect reputation, and she flees across the country and taking her brother with her (against his will).
I wasn’t really a fan of Kendra, she wasn’t very likeable. She made bad choices throughout the novel, knowing that they were bad choices but going through with them anyway. She treats Grayson appallingly; for example, she leaves him in an infested motel to wake up alone, knowing full well how freaked out he was to be staying there in the first place. In fact, the whole premise of the road trip they take is Kendra treating Grayson horribly – she takes him against his will, when he’s asleep, and refuses to return when he wakes up despite the fact that he doesn’t have any of his medications with him. However, as much as I didn’t like Kendra, I did feel that she was realistic, like there was a reason for her bad behaviour. Of course, that doesn’t excuse it!
Aside from what’s already been mentioned, Kendra and Grayson are both impacted by the disappearance of their best friend and, in Grayson’s case, girlfriend Zoe. For most of the book, we are kept in the dark about why Zoe disappeared, all we know is that her parents weren’t tolerant of Grayson’s issues or supportive of their relationship. Little snippets are revealed here and there, and it’s quite obvious that Kendra blames Grayson for the loss of her friend. Grayson’s various medical issues all seemed to get worse after Zoe left, and I felt that Brown did a wonderful job of portraying a character with such complex medical issues. I felt quite sympathetic to Grayson, and he clearly has no control over most of his actions which at the same time was very distressing for him.
Rena was a breath of fresh air; picked up by Kendra and Grayson at the aforementioned infested motel, she joins them on their road trip. A young mother fleeing a violent relationship, Rena provides humour and sweetness that was otherwise lacking in Perfect Escape. She takes Grayson at face value, but doesn’t treat him any differently because of his issues. Unlike his sister, who tries to cure him, Rena tries to help him through his OCD and his anxieties when he gets stuck in a moment, and it’s very sweet to read.
This was not a happy and shiny road trip that I’ve come to expect from YA fiction. There were funny moments, but overall the book was quite sombre throughout. Given the synopsis, this was to be expected. I enjoyed the style of writing, particularly the slow release of information relating to Kendra’s role in the cheating scandal and also Zoe’s disappearance. This was the first book of Brown’s that I’ve read, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
Rating: 3 Stars
What about you, have you read Perfect Escape? What about one of Jennifer Brown’s other books?