Picture Perfect by Holly Smale
Published: January 2016 (UK: June 2014)
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Since she returned from her last modeling job, Harriet’s biggest worry has been the wait between phone calls from her perfect boyfriend, Nick.
Then Harriet’s dad gets a job in America. In New York City, land of skyscrapers and taxicabs. A place so exciting that Harriet isn’t even upset to leave her friends and her plans behind, especially since she’ll be able to see Nick while she’s there.
Except…when her parents said they were moving to “New York,” they meant Greenway, New York, two hours away from the city by train. Which means no glamorous apartment, no geeking out at museums, and no romantic dates with Nick.
Harriet is eager to escape into the now-familiar world of fashion. But modeling in New York is nothing like what she’s used to. Will this geek be able to stand out in the big city—or will she get left behind?
Shortly after Harriet receives her A Levels and before her birthday, her family announces they’re moving to New York for six months for her dad’s job. Harriet’s beyond excited to move to NYC temporarily, because she’ll finally live out all her American TV- and movie-dreams and she’ll get to spend loads of time with her boyfriend Nick. Except her family isn’t moving to New York City — they’re moving to Greenway, over an hour outside NYC. Desperate for friends, adventure, and excitement, Harriet jumps at a chance to be back in the modeling world again, only to find herself just as lost and confused as before.
If Geek Girl was a riot of good fun and Model Misfit a journey in social development, then Picture Perfect is much more of a coming-of-age and self-love kind of book. Harriet depends on lists that mostly detail dreams and expectations rather than feasible realities, and she’s constantly disappointed by the outcomes. She’s lonely and doesn’t know how to tell anyone that because she either expects them to know how she’s feeling without saying anything, or she doesn’t want to put a damper on the situation.
Her biggest fear, and one I’m sure many of us can relate to, is being left behind. Abandoned. Forgotten. In a way, she was abandoned by the modeling world and thought she came to terms with it. It’s not until Wilbur appears that Harriet realizes just how much she missed modeling — and she thrusts herself into that world again, only to realize she’s clinging to thin threads here as well. She can’t make friends in the US, she fears losing her friends back home, she’s worried she’s losing Nick, she feels she’s lost her parents — so she scrambles in the fashion world, too.
Smale’s style is snappy and quick, making the pages fly by. Facts are flown about, numerous stumbles and falls, high-action roller coasters and molasses-slow pity walks from the neighborhood station — Harriet experiences it all in New York. While the first book focused on the intriguing, glamorous world of fashion, and the second book on Harriet’s fascination with Japan and her growing social skills, Smale took a step back and dug deep into Harriet’s character with this third book. What makes Harriet Harriet? How can she stand out? Does she need to stand out? Can she learn to love herself exactly the way she is? I enjoy books that focus on the introspective character, and Smale holds nothing back!