No Perfect Places

Bloomsbury. May 2023. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781547611072.
Gr 10 Up–Twins Olly and Alex Brucke’s lives were turned upside down when their father was arrested on white-collar criminal charges. Serving time in federal prison, their dad has convinced Alex of his innocence, but not Olly (who unlike Alex uses he/they pronouns). Then, their dad dies of a heart attack in prison. What Olly knows, and fears Alex can’t handle knowing, is that their dad fathered a secret child before their birth, and that their half-brother (Tyler) has been emailing Olly. Paralyzed by grief, Alex sleepwalks through her senior year of high school and gives up her aspirations of becoming a chef, spiraling into drug and alcohol use and a relationship with an abusive drug dealer. Meanwhile, Tyler shows up unannounced for a summer job working with Olly at the Lonely Bear Resort in Lake George, NY, forcing Olly to keep Tyler’s identity concealed from Alex while simultaneously filming a documentary about their family. Something of a mash-up between The Parent Trap and I’ll Give You the Sun, this novel will appeal to readers who enjoy issue-heavy stories, although the narrative strains under the weight of many intense conflicts. Drug use, including an overdose death, and explicit sexual situations make this better suited for upper high school readers. Olly, Alex, and Tyler are white; Olly’s boyfriend Khal is Lebanese; and Javy, a Black and Latinx friend of Alex’s from a support group, open’s Alex’s eyes to the racial inequities of the incarceration system.
VERDICT A secondary purchase.

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