You Asked for Perfect

272p. Sourcebooks/Fire. Mar. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781492658276.
Gr 9 Up—At the start of senior year, Ariel is valedictorian, first chair violin, and a perfect Harvard applicant. Despite all that work, his road to the perfect future is getting bumpy. Unexpected struggles in AP calculus, bloody fingers from a new violin solo, more work and less sleep send Ariel into a spiral of panic and exhaustion. He certainly doesn't need a crush on his (secret) calculus tutor, Amir, to further complicate things. As pressure mounts and Ariel grows terrified that someone will learn of his inadequacies, he has to decide how far he'll go—and what he'll sacrifice—to be perfect. Silverman's book is a critical look at the growing academic pressures teens face and the ease with which adults overlook the well-being of high-performing kids. Ariel's struggles with high expectations and a competitive school environment (high achieving kids often trade in their lunch period for extra AP credits) are heartbreakingly relatable. His fear and embarrassment over being less than the best drive him deeper into dangerous habits and isolation. Ariel's turmoil is the undoubted heart of the novel, but his friends and family are rich, interesting characters on their own. Inclusion is celebrated on every page. Ariel is openly bisexual, his family is devoutly Jewish, his best friend is Korean, his love interest is Muslim. These things are all simply facts of the world, neither watered-down nor over-explained.
VERDICT Highly recommended for teen collections, especially in competitive school environments.

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