Vinaya's Reviews > Past Perfect

Past Perfect by Leila Sales
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's review
May 24, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: arc-galley, books-i-ought-to-love-but-dont, fluff-fluffy-fluffest, not-for-me, mixed-vibes, ya-fiction
Recommended to Vinaya by: Flannery
Read from May 24 to 26, 2011

Dear Leila Sales,

It's not you, it's me.

Okay, maybe it is you, just a little bit.

There are characters that I love to love, and characters that I love to hate. Characters that I merely despise, however, are rarely to my taste. Take Eona, for example. God, that girl frustrated me, annoyed me, made me want to scream at her and shake her till she saw sense, but I still loved the book.

Chelsea, the heroine of this book, inspired no such emotion in me. I like a little bit of perspective even in my escapist fiction, and this just didn't give me that. Through the whole book I was just like, Yeah, so?

The setting of the book is pretty awesome. Chelsea gets a summer job in Essex, a living history Colonial village where her parents work, and where she's spent most of her summers. This year, however, she wanted to work at the mall, a scheme that was overturned by her best friend Fiona's desire to work in Essex. Her life is further complicated by the fact that her ex-boyfriend Ezra- whom she's still pining over- is also working there this summer. And as if things aren't hard enough, Chelsea finds herself falling for a Civil Warrior from the neighbouring Reenactmentland, Essex's bitterest rivals.

The entire generation of junior interpreters in both places are at War, trying to undermine each other's places of work without letting the adults know about the ongoing rivalry. They sneak into each other's camps and plant anachronistic implements and indulge in petty vandalism. This entire scenario reminded me A LOT of Jellicoe Road, but without the magic that infuses Marchetta's world. Despite the logic fails in the territory wars in Jellicoe Road, I was infinitely more invested in the 3-way battle between the Cadets, the Townies and the School. For some reason, the War in past Perfect felt too juvenile and petty, even.

But my biggest problem with this book was Chelsea. For some reason, I never managed to connect with her character. I like romantic angst in my YA books, sure, but there has to be a solid base for the angst. Father died? Okay. Parents divorced? Okay. Constrained by financial and cultural circumstances? Okay. But a story about a sixteen year old girl with two loving parents, a great, supportive best friend and a comfortable, happy life playing Juliet in a made-up war? Not so much.

I think the reason I had such a problem with this book was because the heroine took herself so seriously. If you're going to write fluff, then write it with humour and passion and fun. If I wanted to read the moanings of a middle-class teenager whose greatest trial in life has been her first real break-up, I'd go back and read my diaries from high school.

Also, Chelsea came across as a little too self-centred for my taste. (view spoiler)

I was completely unconvinced by the romance, both the star-crossed nature of it, and the reason why Dan actually likes Chelsea totally escaped me. In fact, one of the saddest moments in my life was (view spoiler)

So why did I still give this 3 stars? Because it is a light, easy, well-paced read with occasional flashes of genuine humour. I really liked the descriptions of the living history villages, and I would have been happy to have a bigger spotlight shone on them. I also liked the characterization of Chelsea's dad (I can totally see where her self-absorption comes from!) and her friendship with Fiona.

Chelsea's eventual realization that she had over-romanticized her relationship with Ezra also resonated with me, as it would with most girls/women with a weakness for charming assholes. I'm a little iffy, though, about how sudden her epiphany is. One minute she's all like, oh Ezra was the best boyfriend ever, and the next she's like, all my great memories are being filtered through rose-colored glasses! I know from personal experience, and from nurturing friends through similar relationships, that these things never just burst into fireworks in your head one day. It is a slow process of introspection and an inch-by-inch journey into realization. But this growth is not portrayed in the book at all.

All in all, this was a very 'okay' book for me, easily forgettable. (Sorry Flann!) I DO like Sales' style of writing, though, so I'll be looking up her other books to see if they appeal to me more.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Nomes i am pretty much planning on loving this ~ so I hope you're liking it ;)

Aleeeeeza didja get this on galleygrab, by any chance? because if you did, ME WANTS IT TOO! :d

Aleeeeeza i sort of searched for it on google and saw the link twitter. so thats how y'all find egalleys they dont have on the newsletters. well, i think so, anyway :P
still, thanks for the link! :)

Aleeeeeza also, i read on twitter some author had raved about how awesome your reviews are. that, is like, WOW. congrats! :D

Flannery You better be enjoying this one or I am going to come to your house and give you a disappointing look.

Nomes Nooooo! ;)

haha, you were meant to love this one (i absolutely fell in love)

cute review though :D

Vinaya Oh no, that's just a placeholder, I'll totally explain in great, excruciating, very verbose detail why it only got 3 stars, LOL! :) Only I'm packing to move cities in a couple of days, so my life is a little insane right now!

Nomes LOL

great, excruciating, verbose detail? :)

good luck packing and can't wait to hear what you think :)

Flannery We're breaking up.

message 11: by Vinaya (last edited May 26, 2011 08:16AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Vinaya Bah, I just knew you were going to throw a tantrum about this! This is all your fault anyway- if you hadn't promised to come to my house and give me a sexy, smoldering disappointed look, I might have rated it higher!

Flannery Tantrum? Me? jk. It's funny, though. I read the entire thing and didn't think to myself, even once, that Chelsea was really annoying or self-centered. Weiirrd. Well, we're going to have to wait for some more tie-breakers to read it. Nomes gave it 5 and Lamia gave it 4.

Nomes you were meant to love this vinaya, haha.

it's weird reading your review. we had such different reading experiences to the point that the things that bugged you never ever crossed my mind (even now in hindsight)

i liked you review anyway

x Nomes

message 14: by Chichipio (new)

Chichipio Excrement review, Vin!

See? Ratings don't matter at all when people give an explanation about them. I like the way this balances Flann and Nomes's take of the story without making seem like you were reading a completely different book.

message 15: by Maia (new)

Maia Davis This story teaches a lot to teenage girls. Sales makes all the characters in the book seem obsessed with working in the reenactment business.

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