by Sophie Gonzales
Publication: March 09, 2021
Darcy Phillips has a secret. She’s the person behind locker 89. For a small fee of $10, peers drop off letters detailing their relationship woes, and she provides them with advice. If her advice doesn’t work, she’ll return the fee. Her anonymity comes to an end when Alexander Brougham finds her taking the letters out of the locker. Brougham
blackmails convinces Darcy to help him get his ex-girlfriend back in exchange for a fee and, of course, for keeping her secret.
Darcy is a developed main character who has a window into the relationships of her peers. Darcy doesn’t just make up her relationship advice as she goes, she does research. She collects relationship theories and applies them accordingly. It’s clear she takes what she does seriously but she also learns that objectivity can be difficult. While the transaction is supposed to be anonymous, this isn’t always the case. There are often bits of information that allow her to infer who the writer is, and this becomes problematic. Although she tries to stay objective in providing advice, it isn’t always easy when the relationship woes she reads about have the potential to impact her life. As much insight as she has about relationships, it starts to become clear that it can be difficult to navigate when they are your own—made much more complicated when it makes you question your identity. Ultimately, relationship theories are just a simplification of the world, and real life is much more complex.
I was roped in by the book description but completely sold on it when Gonzales tackled the main questions I had as soon as I started reading the book, the question of objectivity when the advice-r (heh…), to an extent, knows the people asking for advice and where Darcy was getting all this relationship information.
I liked the progression of Brougham and Darcy’s relationship. Being in close proximity and sharing in each other’s secrets allowed them an intimacy they couldn’t afford to others. When they became more than just business aquaintances and turned into friends, it wasn’t abrupt but organic to their development. (Okay…there’s a chance I am going to reread my favorite parts if not the whole thing right now…hahaha)
Perfect on Paper isn’t the simple friends/enemies-to-lovers story it appears to be. It is complex and touches on multiple themes including friendship, healthy relationships, and identity. Gonzales does a wonderful job of handling these multiple themes, with the highlight being the exploration of identity and acceptance. My favorite part of the book is actually at the end where a question is raised about identity. The Queer & Questioning Club is such a great club, one that all schools should have. There is a range of representation in the novel that contributes to making this a worthwhile read from race/ethnicity to gender identity. I enjoyed Perfect on Paper and look forward to reading more by Gonzales.