Past Perfect by Leila Sales. Grades 8+ Simon Pulse, October 2011. 322 pages. Reviewed from e-galley provided by publisher.
When Chelsea returns to another summer of working at Essex Historical Colonial Village, she knows what she's getting herself into: a sweaty costume, clueless tourists, and the same old, same old. At least her best friend is joining her this year! But when Chelsea discovers that her ex-boyfriend Ezra is also working at Essex, she doesn't know how she's going to deal. As much as she wants to be, she's just not over him, and the thought of spending the whole summer working with him is almost more than she can bear.
Then Chelsea meets a new dreamy guy, Dan. The problem? He works for Essex's rival historical village across the street (yes, really!). How did this summer get so complicated?
Love. Love!! So much love for this book. Y'all know I loved Leila Sales's debut, Mostly Good Girls, so you know I was really looking forward to this book. I am happy to report that it met all my (high) expectations. In fact, I'm reading over my notes and... wow, there are a lot of exclamation marks and hearts. :)
The first thing that caught my attention is Chelsea's wit and unexpected dry humor. As soon as I met her, I knew this was a chick I could settle down and spend some time with. And Leila Sales has a way of capturing scenes so that they feel so very realistic. From that crushed feeling after your first love crumbles to a perfect lazy summer night spent on a trampoline with a budding love interest, Ms. Sales gets it and she's able to write so that all her readers will get it, too.
As I was reading, I thought to myself that parts of the story were predictable in a comforting, romance-novel type of way. But then Chelsea goes on to examine her past relationships in a deep way that takes the book to another level. It's a hard thing to do, but not once did I doubt that Chelsea was capable of it. It felt genuine and organic, which is a mark of a truly talented writer. Chelsea's learning that we choose to remember things a certain way, that we can hold on to our past or we can let go of our past. And sometimes we need to let go of our past to move forward. These are such important lessons to learn, but not once did I feel like Leila Sales was trying to teach me something.
Honestly, I wish I could hand this book to my 18-year-old self when I was clobbered by love and needed to learn the same things that Chelsea's learning. Um, and if I'm being completely honest, I wish I could also hand it to my 22-year-old self. Ahem.
Seriously. So much love for this book. Partly funny. Partly romantic. Partly serious. Completely wonderful.
(I do have to note that I'm not a huge fan of the cover. It's definitely cute, but I don't think it's representative of the book and it leaves out the piece that intrigued me the most: a girl working at a living history museum. I wasn't a fan of the cover of Mostly Good Girls either, so... yeah.)
Past Perfect will be on shelves October 4. Normally, I would wait until much closer to the pub date to post my review, but I just couldn't hold it in any longer. I DEMAND THAT YOU PUT THIS ON YOUR RADAR.