Past Perfect Life – Elizabeth Eulberg – Bloomsbury YA – Published 9 July 2019
Small-town Wisconsin high school senior Allison Smith loves her life the way it is-spending quality time with her widowed father and her tight-knit circle of friends, including best friend Marian and maybe-more-than-friends Neil. Sure she is stressed out about college applications . . . who wouldn’t be? In a few short months, everything’s going to change, big time.
But when Ally files her applications, they send up a red flag . . . because she’s not Allison Smith. And Ally’s-make that Amanda’s-ordinary life is suddenly blown apart. Was everything before a lie? Who will she be after? And what will she do as now comes crashing down around her?
What would you do when you discover you’re not who you thought you were? A homage to home, friendship and family, Past Perfect Life delves into the questions of what family really means and what it takes to discover where you truly belong. With a strong female lead character who walks that balance between determined and flexible, cautious but brave, and a wonderful cast of secondary characters, Past Perfect Life is a compelling YA contemporary novel.
Ally Smith’s life is turned inside out when, while applying to college, has her social security number denied. She discovers her dad – the dad she loves spending time with, who is her best friend and rock – isn’t who he said he was. Everything she thought she knew was a lie, but Ally isn’t so sure what to hang on to from her old life and what to embrace in her new one.
Past Perfect Life isn’t a mystery. You find out pretty quickly what is happening and the book is more focuses on Ally’s reactions and the emotional rollercoaster she encounters afterwards.
Here are three things I really liked about this book (there were more, these are just my top three).
Ally. Her world is thrown into chaos, yet I thought Ally’s response to what she discovers about herself and her family was totally realistic and understandable – from the anger and the crying to the disbelief and uncertainty. She could have so easily deteriorated into simply a whiney character. Eulberg managed to walk that fine line and portray every believable emotion, without Ally becoming insufferable. Ally is brave, strong and understanding – there were seriously times I thought she did so well to bottle up her anger. I would have lost it.
Ally’s friends. Ally has the most amazing group of friends that support and love her. My only complaint is that I would have loved to see more of them in the book, but I guess that wouldn’t have been necessary for the storyline. Their connections, shared humour and they way they so lovingly joked around and picked on each other, spoke of in-jokes, shared history and true affection for each other, which seeped through all their interactions and made their friendships so believable. I didn’t need to be told they were all best friends, I could feel it. And the romance develops out of friendship, so that made it perfect and just the sweetest thing ever.
The ending. I was a little uncertain, as the story progressed and the ending neared, how the author would manage to bring everything together and give readers a satisfying conclusion. But that is exactly what she did, at the same time, driving home the messages of family, the importance of trust and love, and showing Ally to be the mature, kindhearted person she is.
Past Perfect Life provides a thoroughly gratifying YA realistic fiction look at family, alongside sweet romance and wonderful examples of friendship.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Family, friendship, belonging, kidnapping, identity, relationships, trust, college, father-daughter relationships, mother-daughter relationships, sisters.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Infrequent coarse language, f*** (3), sh** (6), pi** (6), as***** (4), di** (1), bit** (2). Vague sexual references.
Published: 9 July 2019 by Bloomsbury YA.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 336 pages.