Future Perfect by Jen Larsen
Published: October 2015
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother: lose enough weight, and I will buy your happiness.
Ashley doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way she looks. She knows exactly how she fits into her life, wide hips and all. But no amount of arguing can persuade her grandmother that “fat” isn’t a dirty word—that Ashley is happy with her life, and her body, as it is.
But Ashley wasn’t counting on having her dreams served up on a silver platter at her latest birthday party. She falters when Grandmother offers the one thing she’s always wanted: tuition to attend Harvard University. Ashley wants it—she can’t deny it. But their annual negotiation has upped its stakes—Grandmother wants her to get weight-loss surgery in return for the money.
As Ashley grapples with the choice that little white card has given her, she feels pressured by her friends, her family, even administrators at school. What’s a girl to do when the reflection in her mirror seems to bother everyone but her?
Ashley Perkins is valedictorian at an advanced high school, has a wonderful, artistic boyfriend, supportive friends, and a killer resume for college applications. But her grandmother doesn’t see that. All she sees is her granddaughter’s weight, and how it could influence her admission into Harvard. When Ashley receives the tempting note from her grandmother on her birthday — free tuition for four years at Harvard if she gets weight-loss surgery — she grapples with the price of her dreams and her priceless worth.
Before diving into this, I was looking forward to reading another kind of body book and was curious about its premise. While Dumplin’ was very body positive, embracing all shapes and sizes and health, this one tackles another kind of issue: what if the protagonist does care what others think about her weight?
I am the sum of my parts. Everything I’ve ever done and everything I’ve ever
achieved and everything I have ever been. Fat and smart and afraid and
fierce and angry and brave all together right here, and every piece of the
puzzle fits the way it’s supposed to and I can’t pretend anymore.
Ashley’s passionate and determined and hard-working, destined for greatness.I was on board with her anxiety before her birthday, the tension and build-up and pacing that would become Turning Point 1 in the novel. But after receiving the note (and everyone getting all up in her business with their opinions on what she should do with her own body and future), her ultimate decision in Turning Point 2 seemed a bit lackluster. I’m not sure the Ashley at the beginning of the book would’ve gone in the direction Ashley at the end of the book did, but is that the character growth? I don’t know. Nothing wrong with not knowing what you want to do with your life, especially when you’re a teenager, but Ashley’s reasons for going to Harvard pre- and post-note almost seem unimportant. Surely someone with her resume could also receive scholarships, right?
I guess I’m just unsure about the delivery of the ending. It could be inspirational; it could be a cop-out. I’m on the fence about it.
What was completely unexpected was how integral her friends’ lives (and their own journeys they tackled) were in the book. Jolene, transgender, and Laura, a free-spirit artist, have a lot on their plates. I was interested in each of them, but to the same degree and intensity I was interested in Ashley. So whose story am I supposed to invest most of my time in? Is this book about finding your own direction in life, regardless of what people say? If so, I think it was halfway to meeting that goal. I really wanted to read about Ashley. Save Jolene’s powerful story and Laura’s interesting one for other books to let all these voices ring properly.
Again, I’m unsure. There are good things in here, and moments of greatness (like that quote! YES!), but I think too much was attempted for one book. Body perception and health is quite the issue, and Ashley was a strong character. I wanted more.
This fulfills book 1 of 10 library books in 2016.