In Sophie Gonzales’ Perfect on Paper, Leah on the Offbeat meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: a bisexual girl who gives anonymous love advice to her classmates is hired by the hot guy to help him get his ex back
Her advice, spot on. Her love life, way off.
• Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes―for a fee.
• Uses her power for good. Most of the time.
• Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.
• Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.
• Does not appreciate being blackmailed.
However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89―out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service―that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach―at a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.
Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.
Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?
This was such a fun book! The story follows a bisexual high school girl named Darcy who, for the past two years, has secretly run a relationship advice service from Locker 89 — an abandoned locker at school to which only she has the combination. One day she gets caught red-handed retrieving letters from the locker by a stuffy upperclassman named Alexander Brougham. In return for keeping her secret, Darcy agrees to help him win back his ex-girlfriend. Of course, things don’t go smoothly, especially when her own love life stirs up a conflict of interest between her “Agony Aunt” duties and her friend Brook, a friend on whom Darcy harbors a secret crush. As it turns out, Darcy has made some poor decisions — selfish decisions — which, if came to light, would no doubt ruin her friendship with Brook forever.
I really appreciated the conversion about bi-phobia, both internalized and external, once Darcy begins having feelings for Alexander. She begins to ask herself whether she’s can still call herself queer if she dates someone of the opposite sex. Would falling in love with a guy erase her as a bisexual? Could she even call herself bisexual in such a case? There was a lot of compelling discussion around this topic in the book, and it illustrated how painful and damaging bi-phobia can be — and how it can even be perpetuated by the Queer community.
The book also delves into many other important themes such as romantic relationships, friendship, being part of the queer community, family, and coming out. There was also plenty of horrible decisions leading to much drama, which was a lot of fun. But though Darcy does mess up horribly and makes some pretty terrible decisions, she’s quite an admirable character overall. She takes her role as a relationship advisor seriously. Thus, she spends a lot of time researching relationships, helping her provide better advice to her “clients” (even though she’s never been in a relationship herself). Darcy actually gives quite impressive and well-researched advice, tacking such topics as consent, boundaries, communicating your feelings, sexual identity, appropriate expectations, and not allowing others to take advantage of you or belittle you.
I also loved how diverse the cast of characters was. Our main character, Darcy, was bisexual, the male hero was heterosexual, Darcy’s friend/love interest is a lesbian, and several supporting characters were trans, non-binary, and gay.
All in all, this novel was a delight to read. I loved the way it combines the bitterness of adolescence with the sweetness of friendship and young love. The characterization in this book is really powerful, and I thought that this novel is populated with wonderfully complex, dynamic, and empathetic characters, displaying the perfect balance of heartbreak and hope.
The plot itself was phenomenal, and I loved the premise of giving out secret relationship advice via a school locker. But this was much more than an enjoyable story. Perfect on Paper makes us think about who we are and how we want to live our lives and does in a way that’s skillfully presented and eloquently narrated, ending up being a tale of courage, love, and carving your own place in the world.