Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review: Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

Perfect Escape
Jennifer Brown
Release date: July 10th 2012
by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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.
 *A copy was provided by Hachette Book Group Canada for review purposes*
Road trip books can go from kookie to serious to fun to depressing. Perfect Escape is a beautiful story that has the perfect blend of happy and sad, leaving us with a heartfelt tale about a girl trying to escape her life, and, hopefully, her brother's OCD.

Overshadowed by her brother's illness her whole life, Kendra is struggling to achieve perfection. She's become an overachiever so that she can balance out Grayson's imperfection. We don't notice Kendra's crumbling mental state at first. She's strong-willed and selfless. Later, as the story moves along, as we learn how hard hard she is on herself, as we see how deeply one person's OCD affects a whole family, we begin to notice the cracks in her seemingly perfect facade. Her character grows and evolves throughout the story, making her someone I could easily sympathize with. I understood her instead of condemning her for her hasty, sometimes terrible, decisions. Her brother Grayson is equally, if not more, compelling. Having OCD, he's a fascinating character study. I've always been intrigued by mental illnesses and we get a first look at all the ups and downs of an often misunderstood disorder. With these highs and lows comes great character depth; Grayson is a very well-rounded, three dimensional character that will wedge himself right into your hearts. The siblings relationship that these two have is by far my favorite part of this novel. They bicker and disagree, they relive memories and laugh about old times - they know each other to through and through, and love each other unconditionally despite it all. I adored this. This impenetrable connection and fierce protectiveness that they share for each other is simply wonderful and glows right through the pages.

Unlike many road trip novels, we don't meet a slew of colourful, though irrelevant, characters over the course of their trip. The people we do meet have a big impact on the story. They weave their way into Kendra and Grayson's journey, becoming exceptional characters that will forever leave a mark on their hearts - and ours. The many adventures and stops on the way is filled with amusing anecdotes and tender moment, in addition to more serious, emotional developments. Though not abrupt, it's not a straight up, cut and dried ending filled with closure. Like life, we don't get everything resolved, we get hope. Hope and belief that everything will work out. Because oftentimes in life, it's the only thing we've got.

Highly character driven and dealing with very real issues, Perfect Escape will make you feel every emotion you can muster. If you loved Saving June, and fans of contemporary novels focusing on mental illness and sibling relationships must add this to their reading list!

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