You Asked for Perfect
by Laura Silverman
eARC, 273 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Sourcebooks Fire
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.
Welcome to another book that I know I will love but keep putting it off without any clear reason.
I love books that has academic themes, especially those about senior years. The pressure is high yes, but there’s also the bittersweet feeling of last year of being a teenager, last year of hanging out with your friends, and last shot of joining clubs you always want to join, or talk with people you’ve always want to talk, or confess to your crush. And of course, there’s an additional pressure of seemingly have to decide your life path right then and there. While there have been a lot of books talking about the college decision, or last huzzah with friends and crushes, I have never read any book that talked about academic pressure seniors faced.
Enter, You Asked for Perfect. And let me tell you, this book got the academic pressure very right.
“When I signed up for classes freshman year, no one told me that straight As, volunteer hours, and time in the arts aren’t enough. No one told me I’d have to know every answer to every test and also be a “unique individual” following my life’s calling at seventeen.”
I know I graduated high school like, 4 years ago, but I still remember the intense pressure senior year brought to me. The homeworks, the all-nighters, the campus tours and college applications. And it doesn’t seem to ever enough, someone else just always to have it all better, to be more well rounded and generally better than us. On top of the hard subjects and fierce competition, I also have to deal with want to do was not supported by my parents and I have to quickly figure out what’s my alternative going to be.
“If I don’t have perfect grades, then who am I?”
I feel like I read this book at the right time also. 4 years later, I still thinking of the “what-ifs” where I insisted on my choice, but this quarantine time give me a lot of thinking time and a new perspective. You see, I’m on my final year of university and this whole pandemic thing truly forced me to stop and think about a lot of things. I feel the anxiety for my grades, my thesis, and also my future prospects. The quote above really resonates with me because I’ve always been known first and foremost for my grades, but you can’t have grades forever. At some point, we all graduate and weighted by different system. The motivation is different, but as with Ariel, I have to decide on who I am outside of the education system, what to do next, whether to continue in the same field or switch careers. I have to decide whether switching actually matters, whether it’s actually worth it, whether it’s something I still want to pursue or whether because I couldn’t let go. I also faced with questions that what if I didn’t enjoy the now, the learning and the people, because I was too caught up with the past/future? But as it was eloquently put by this quote:
“How do you know if a goal is worth it until you get it? We work hard for a lot of stuff. Should we not put in effort because the reward might not be what we thought?”
Okay. Enough about me being too personal and exposing myself, let’s talk about the other elements.
The writing style is just so simple and straightforward, it was so easy to read and honestly, comforting. I miss the simplistic writing in YA, it feels like I rarely read them anymore! Plus it also conveys the rawness and intensity of the emotions very well as the writing is bare from any embellishment or hyperbole. I could honestly read this in one sitting but it can made me anxious so I took my time and ended up appreciating the story more!
We also have a wonderful diverse cast here! Ariel’s family is Jewish, they are very observant and involved in the community so we see how beloved his family in the community are. Some of his friends are also Jewish, such as Isaac and Malka. Pari and Amir are Indian, with Amir also being a Muslim, and Sook is korean. And in terms of sexuality, Ariel is bisexual, Amir is gay, and Sook is a lesbian.
On the relationship aspect… I love them all. I love how soft and grounding Amir and Ariel’s relationship is. Both of them are under huge pressure of senior year, especially Ariel being anxious 24/7, but when he’s with Amir, with his quiet passion and soft countenance, everything seems to just fell into place. I love the platonic relationship Ariel has with Sook, Milka, and Pari how they support and call out each other. And I always love the “You thought I’m your competition but I just want to be your friend can’t you see 🥺” trope, which is EXTREMELY RARE (the other time I found this is in Tweet Cute) so I really appreciate it here. And obviously, I love how wonderful all the families are in this book! We need more portrayals of warm functional family with present, responsible, supportive adults please and thank you!
I know the themes sounds like heavy and can be anxiety inducing and while it’s true, I’m also surprised with how warm and soft this book is! I think it’s mainly because of the soft relationship between Amir and Ariel, but also how supportive the friends and family are in this book. I can see myself in Ariel both in my time as a senior in high school and also draw parallel with where I am in life now. It’s such a quick read and a new favorite for me!