Juliet Newman has it all. A picture-perfect family; a handsome, loving boyfriend; and a foolproof life plan: ace her SATs, get accepted into Harvard early decision, and live happily ever after.
But when her dad moves out and her mom loses it, Juliet begins questioning the rules she’s always lived by. And to make everything even more complicated there’s Declan, the gorgeous boy who makes her feel alive and spontaneous—and who’s totally off-limits. Torn between the life she always thought she wanted and one she never knew was possible, Juliet begins to wonder: What if perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
Better than Perfect is built around an interesting idea – what is the ‘perfect life’, and do we work so hard towards that perfection that we lose sight of what we actually want? For Juliet, perfect is pretty straightforward – excel at school, excel at sport, be a good friend and girlfriend and get into Harvard. It’s only when her mother is hospitalised that Juliet’s life begins to change and she begins to question herself and her future.
OK, let’s talk about the elephant in the synopsis – Juliet cheats on her boyfriend. Now, I know a lot of people are bothered by cheating in books, but it’s not normally something that particularly bothers me – it happens in real life, and sometimes there are circumstances that don’t exactly excuse it, but explain it. However, in Better than Perfect I had several issues with it. Firstly, Juliet’s boyfriend, Jason, isn’t a horrible boyfriend – although he lacks some character development and a lot of personality, he’s kind and supportive and is always there for Juliet when she needs him. They call each other J constantly, which annoyed me quite early on and they have some really cheesy habits, but I felt so sorry for him – he tries to do the right thing and Juliet not only cheats on him, she never admits to it either. Secondly, for large parts of the book there is very little interaction between Juliet and Declan – it wasn’t that there was a huge personality click and chemistry that had me convinced they were meant to be together.
I also found it very difficult to sympathise with Juliet – she has a pretty easy life, and although I could feel her vulnerability when she starts to realise that what she thought was a perfect life is actually far from it, she does, and thinks some very selfish things when it comes to her parents. She doesn’t seem to feel sad that her mother is struggling with her own life, and in fact at times comes across as rather bratty and spoilt.
There are a lot of plot lines that seem to go nowhere too, and I was incredibly curious about those parts of the story that just petered out and died when they had served the purpose of sending Juliet in a different direction. I love when characters realise something about themselves or their futures that they have never considered and then pursue it with passion, but Juliet just kind of flounders about for most of the book and then makes one decision right at the very end of the book.
Overall, Better than Perfect was an excellent idea, that just didn’t live up to expectations in terms of plot development and character development. Coupled with an unmemorable, rather unlikable main character who did things that I found incredibly irritating, sadly I just couldn’t enjoy it.