Review: Past Perfect by Leila Sales
Author: Leila Sales
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Published: October 4th 2011
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Borrowed from the library
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All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.
Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it…. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)
FTC Disclaimer: I borrowed a copy of this book from my library. I was in no way compensated for this review.
High Hopes For Past Perfect…
I read and enjoyed This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales last year, so when Past Perfect was chosen as a selection for my book club, I was excited to read another of her books. Plus, it’s set in a historical village and I LOVE Colonial Williamsburg, so I was super excited. Unfortunately, Past Perfect was, well, quite less than perfect.
Not Very Impressed…
Right from the beginning, the main character, Chelsea, makes fun of history nerds. Speaking of guys who like history, she says, “I don’t know if they were born so unappealing, and turned to history for companionship because they realized they were too grotesque to attract real-life friends, or if their love of history came first, and maybe they could have turned out hot, but instead they invested all their energy in watching twelve-hour documentaries about battleships.”
Okay, I get it. She’s a teenager. And teens judge things that they deem uncool. Heck, adults do, too. But I want to see growth here. If she’s going to start out being a superficial brat who calls history nerds “grotesque,” I want to see her eat those words by the end. Have her fall in love with a history nerd. Better yet, have her fall in love with a “grotesque” history nerd. But does this happen? NO. Okay, so she doesn’t realize that what she said was wrong, that’s fine. But if she doesn’t have growth, she’s going to remain an unlikable character for me. And that’s exactly what happened. There were a few times when I thought Chelsea was going to come around as a character, but she just never had that growth that I was looking for.
Give Me More Detail!
Also, I was looking forward to a really interesting setting, where we see all these different details about the colonial village where she works. In the beginning, she tells us that there are 3 questions that people working at a colonial village get all the time: “Is what you’re wearing hot?” “Where’s the bathroom?” and…I can’t remember the third one. We get to learn a few little tidbits like this about what it’s like to work in the colonial village. But as far as details about the village itself, Past Perfect is definitely lacking.
First of all, Chelsea gets the most boring job in all of the village: hanging out in the graveyard. And guess what her job in the graveyard is? To stand around and answer questions. So basically she gets a whole lot of those 3 questions, plus other ones about the graveyard and she knows nothing about the graveyard. We get to see a bit of the blacksmith’s shop, and a bit of the milliner’s, but that’s about it. We really see nothing about the rest of the colonial village. It was so disappointing.
Beware, Ranting Below…
There were also just a lot of inaccuracies and contradictions within the book too. There was quite a bit of girls shaming other girls, and slut shaming. And her dad was oftentimes the embodiment of sexism.
Oh, and don’t get me started on her damn parents taking some Revolutionary War costumes out of her room AND DONATING THEM WITHOUT EVEN TELLING HER ABOUT IT. Because oh my god, it’s just horrible for their daughter, who has been raised working in a colonial village, to have Revolutionary War costumes in her room. The horror! I mean, even if they were truly offended by that (and it’s really quite ridiculous for ADULTS to be offended by that), they should have TALKED TO HER ABOUT IT BEFORE THEY TOOK THEM AND GAVE THEM AWAY.
And they weren’t even technically hers! Other teens had spent WEEKS making them and they just took them and donated them! And regardless of the fact that they weren’t hers, they were in her room so her parents should treat them as her property! What kind of parents take things from their teen’s room and give them away without asking??? And what did she do about it? She got mad for a minute and then did NOTHING. I’m IRATE and it’s not even a true story! OMG if my parents did that!
There were a few redeeming things about this book. I liked how Chelsea and her best friend were trying out all types of ice cream over the summer and rating them. And I really liked Dan, the love interest. But I didn’t think that Chelsea deserved him, at all. And her dad was slightly redeemed with his talk about how “history is written by the victors, and the victors want to make themselves look good.”
Overall, I was just left disappointed with Past Perfect. It had so much potential, but just fell way too short. But if you still think it sounds like something you’d enjoy, check out the reviews I’ve listed below. They all enjoyed Past Perfect much more than I did.