Also by this author: Girl Out of Water
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on March 5, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
YOU ASKED FOR PERFECT review
Wow, what a book! I thought Laura Silverman’s debut Girl out of Water was a great read, but with You Asked for Perfect, she really knocks it out of the park with a book that resonated with me both as someone who has been through and remembers all too well the stressful days of trying to get into a good college, and as the parent of a pre-teen who is already taking advanced classes and will soon be potentially heading down a path similar to that of Silverman’s protagonist, high school senior Ariel Stone.
On paper, Ariel is the ideal college applicant. He’s a straight A student who is well on his way to becoming class valedictorian, first chair violin in the school orchestra, and an active volunteer in his community. He should easily be able to get into any college he applies to. However, Ariel is dreaming big – Ivy League big — and Harvard is where he wants to go. Ariel knows he has to push for perfection in all areas if he wants to be the ideal Harvard applicant on paper, so when he unexpectedly fails a Calculus quiz, he knows he needs to step up his game if he’s going to keep his dream alive.
Ariel starts skipping out on time with his friends and family, putting together a rigorous schedule for studying and for meeting other assorted college-related deadlines. He has his days mapped out by the hour to squeeze every moment of study time in that he can, leaving himself only about 5 hours of sleep a night. Even with this nearly impossible schedule, however, Ariel continues to struggle with Calculus and knows his dream is in danger of slipping out of reach.
Torn between trying to hide the fact that he’s struggling and knowing that he needs help, Ariel reluctantly approaches Amir, who is acing Calculus and asks him for assistance. Even though they’ve never been especially close, Amir agrees to be Ariel’s tutor. The more time Ariel and Amir spend together, the more Ariel realizes that he likes Amir more than he thought he did, a lot more. But Ariel is already pushing himself to the limit. Can he handle adding a relationship into his already overbooked life?
What I loved most about this book is how much the story resonated with me. Even though it has been many years since I graduated, Silverman paints such an authentic portrait of what it’s like to be a high school senior preparing for the future, that I felt like I was transported right back to my own senior year. It brought back so many memories: the pressure of taking multiple AP courses, finding the time for countless extracurricular activities, all in an effort to put together the best possible transcript for applying to colleges. You Asked for Perfect also resonated with me as the parent of a pre-teen who is already taking advanced math courses and stressing about homework, etc., and who, in the not too distant future, could potentially be heading down a path similar to Ariel’s. This book brings to life all of the worries I have for my own child and how he will react if he faces the kind of pressure Ariel is facing.
Speaking of Ariel, he was another favorite element in the book. He’s such a likeable kid — he’s a wonderful brother to his little sister and he volunteers at the local animal shelter where he bathes and exercises the dogs – so it just pained me to watch him struggling so much. Because his story is so relatable, I found it very easy to empathize with him and want him to either succeed or to realize that nothing in life is worth that kind of stress.
I also thought Amir was just precious. Even though he could have easily spilled the beans and let all of their classmates know Ariel was failing Calculus, he instead chose to keep it to himself and to help him. Watching their relationship evolve was really sweet and I was really rooting for Ariel to try to find a way to fit Amir into his life.
I also loved the focus on Ariel’s Jewish faith. Sometimes books will mention that a character is of a certain faith but then not really explore it further, but in this book, Silverman does a wonderful job of really giving an inside look at Jewish traditions such as Shabbat dinners and the high holidays. There are also some very moving scenes where Ariel seeks counsel from his Rabbi.
Nothing that I can think of.
Laura Silverman’s You Asked for Perfect is a beautifully written and moving story that is sure to resonate with many readers, both students and parents alike. I also think it’s an incredibly important read because it highlights just how much stress our students are putting on themselves and what can happen when that stress gets to be too much.
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.