TITLE: You Asked for Perfect
AUTHOR: Laura Silverman
RELEASED: March 2019; Sourcebooks Fire
GENRE: YA Contemporary
KEY INFO: Academia, friendships, romance, anxiety
REPRESENTATION: bisexual Jewish MC, gay South Asian Muslim MC, lesbian Korean (side), Jewish family, anxiety
hospitalisation, anxiety, panic attacks, forgetting to eat, descriptions of skin blisters from over-practice
Synopsis: Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard – really hard – to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.
Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.
Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.
You Asked for Perfect is one of those quiet, unsuspecting books that emerge from nowhere and completely blow your mind with how perfect they are. Prior to the author, Laura Silverman, offering ARCs of You Asked for Perfect on twitter, I hadn’t seen or heard anything about the book but my curiosity was piqued by the title and the beautiful cover so I decided to investigate further. As soon as I read the synopsis and saw that this book would be dealing with academic anxiety, stress and an m/m romance I requested an ARC of the book and boy, am I glad I was approved for an ARC because this book is everything.
✏️ “How are we supposed to do everything right without burning out?”
I’ve never read a book which talks about the pressure that schools place on young people as well as You Asked for Perfect does. This may come as a surprise to many of you, especially those of you who have followed my recent educational escapades into PhD applications, but I was hospitalized on a psychiatric ward at the age of 16 following a severe mental breakdown as a result of stress from school, lack of family support, and homophobia. These days I usually tend to shy away from books which focus on things like mental health out of a reluctance of wanting to ‘relive’ aspects of my own life, but there was something about You Asked for Perfect that grabbed my attention and made me want to read it.
I can’t even begin to explain to you how wonderfully Silverman explores important issues like academic stress, anxiety, relationships, religion, and mental health (among other things) in You Asked for Perfect. As a senior, Ariel feels under immense pressure to be perfect in every aspect of his life if he wants to be the ‘perfect’ Harvard candidate. He must fight to keep his place as first chair violin in the school orchestra, achieve A’s in all of his subjects, complete all of his homework, keep up with his volunteer work at the shelter, attend his younger sister’s football games, keep attending religious service, find time to hang out with his friends which now includes playing the violin in his best friends band… oh, and eat and sleep if he has enough time. So when Ariel fails his first ever Calculus test it seems like the end of the world and he throws himself even harder into his studies, sacrificing his relationships, his health and his wellbeing all in pursuit of that golden ticket to Harvard.
Laura Silverman manages to capture all of this so well, yet also manages to masterfully balance these serious issues out with humour, adorableness, and a surprising amount of lightness to bring us a beautiful story about discovering what’s really important to us and why we need to slow down and enjoy what we have right in front of us.
It is not an understatement when I say that I love these characters. I thought it was very fitting for the Top Ten Tuesday prompt today to be ‘characters I’d like to swap places with’ because I would love to swap with someone in this book so I could hang out with Ariel, his friends and family (although obviously at a much less stressful time!) I don’t think that there is a single character in You Asked for Perfect that I didn’t like.
I adored Ariel as the main character and his blossoming romance with Amir actually gave me butterflies. I loved watching the two boys become more comfortable with one another and learn to navigate their relationship as a time of extreme stress. I don’t always feel things when romances are portrayed in fiction, but the relationship between Ariel and Amir gave me a big stupid smile on my face whilst reading and it was just so pure and adorable.
Can we also talk about Ariel’s family because I want them to be my family so much!? It was so nice reading a story where the parents were supportive and present whilst also portraying parents as real human beings who make mistakes and have emotions about things. The scenes where Ariel’s family were hanging around eating dinner and sharing their ‘successes and bloopers’ of the day were some of my favourite moments in the book. It was also great to see Silverman exploring how stress impacts on different people and how we all experience things differently through characters like Ariel’s younger sister Rachel, his best friend Sook, and his academic ‘rival’ Pari. Each character felt so fleshed out and helped to make the entire story seem so real.
🌈 Diverse Representation
There is no way a review of You Asked for Perfect would be complete without talking about its amazing rep. It was so refreshing to read a book where the entire character cast was diverse but in a way which is fully integrated into the story. Sadly, there are many books where diversity is treated like a tickbox exercise and the identity of the characters isn’t actually enmeshed within the story itself but that is definitely not the case here.
For example, Ariel’s family are Jewish and this plays a big role in the story from his attendance to services at the synagogue and the guidance sessions he receives from his Rabbi to family meals and celebration of religious holidays. It was also nice to see interactions between characters of different faiths, particularly in the loving relationships between Ariel and Amir’s families, and watching how this creates heart-warming moments like Amir trying matzo ball soup for the first time.
Another thing that I really appreciated was the depiction of Amir, Ariel and Sook’s sexualities. I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it felt to read a story where the characters sexualities were discussed at multiple points in the story but that these were woven naturally into the story and the story wasn’t about their sexualities. Even though Ariel and Amir’s relationship is a main element of the story their relationship is accepted by their friends and families and there is not even the tiniest hint of a ‘coming out’ scene for which I am so thankful. It was also great to see a bisexual character talking about their bisexuality multiple times throughout the book and having this respected by the other characters.
🌟 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 shining stars 🌟
When I first began writing this review I had initially rated You Asked for Perfect at 4.5 stars but have decided to round it up to 5 stars because this book honestly does so many things right and is such a fantastic book. I didn’t have any expectations going in but Laura Silverman blew me away and has made my heart so full with this book. I was full on crying at 2am over how perfect this book is and it’s only fair that I give it the 5-star rating it truly deserves.
A huge thank you to Laura Silverman and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an advanced readers copy of You Asked for Perfect via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my review.