Book Title:
Finding Perfect
Book Author:
Elly Swartz
Publishing Date:
October 18th, 2016
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Date Read:
December 10th, 2016
ARC from publisher - Thank you!


To twelve-year-old Molly Nathans, perfect is:

―The number four

―The tip of a newly sharpened No. 2 pencil

―A crisp white pad of paper

―Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines

What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are sometimes broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Poetry Slam Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with white tablecloths. Molly is sure her mother would never miss that. Right…?

But as time passes, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly's world from spinning out of control. In this fresh-voiced debut novel, one girl learns there is no such thing as perfect.

My Review

Somehow this book slipped right under my radar, and I hadn’t heard anything about it prior to the awesome folks over at Macmillan Children’s sending me an ARC of it.  Intrigued, I opened up the first page of the book, determined to read just the first few sentences to get a feel for the main character and whether or not I was going to enjoy the book.  However, instead of stopping after reading one page, I found myself three quarters of the way through the book before I realized I had just never stopped reading.  Yep, it’s that good.  I loved everything about this book.  Needless to say, I finished the book right then (because I mean, I was already that far in), and it’s the first time that I’ve read a book in one sitting in a very long time.

It’s no surprise that I’ve taken to reading a lot more middle grade fiction in combination with the young adult fiction that I usually pick up, and like I’ve stated in previous reviews, there’s a good reason for it.  Middle grade fiction is simply raw and full of emotion, and the characters don’t feel pressured to feel things that they simply do not feel, or to not feel things that they do.  They simply ride out on a wave full of emotions that make one wonderful, powerful story that makes it not only a memorable reading experience, but one that you won’t be shy to recommend to your friends or pick up again in the future.

Molly Nathans is a twelve year old girl who enjoys writing poetry and spending time with her family – including her dad, her little brother, and her older sister.  Her mom, however, has taken a job in Canada, and while she promises that she will come back within a year, no one besides Molly has the slightest bit of optimism that she will actually return.  So she comes up with a plan that she is sure will work: she will win the poetry slam competition at her middle school, and her mother will have to come home to attend her banquet and see her read her poem.  She is sure that it will bring her mother home and her family back together again.  So she gives it her all, writing poem after poem until she comes up with something perfect enough for the contest, and as she moves on to the next round, she starts to think that maybe her plan might just work out.

However, things start to get a little difficult for Molly.  While she recently started devoting a lot of times to washing her hands, organizing her room, and being neat and tidy, things seem to be getting worse for her – she no longer feels that she can control the urges that she has to do these things, and she starts to notice new habits popping up, making her feel as if she can no longer cope.

“When I get back to my room, I stand in the middle and stare at my perfectly aligned glass menagerie, my wrinkle-free bed, my neatly folded clothing, and realize that I can’t keep doing this.  Things are getting worse.  I’m losing control.”

As Molly tries to conceal these habits from her friends and family, she starts becoming more and more depressed as she realizes that perhaps her older sister is right and their mother really doesn’t plan on coming back.  Phone calls and visits get canceled, and Molly feels more alone than ever.  She isn’t sure what is going on with her, or even if she can trust anyone enough to tell them how she feels.  Molly isn’t quite sure she is going to be able to keep herself together when things just keep getting worse.

Finding Perfect is such a powerful book with a brave main character who watches her world fall apart when her mother leaves and takes a job in another country.  To top it off, she develops Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and as time goes on, it gets worse.  With no one to turn to and no idea why she is having these thoughts, Molly finds herself dealing with it on her own, causing her to feel so many harsh emotions that would break anyone down.

The relationship that Molly has with her family is interesting, and I love when books incorporate a family relationship into the story.  Too often you see a book that doesn’t pay any attention to family members or that makes their personalities seem generic.  However, I’ve noticed that in Finding Perfect, all the characters come to life.

Molly isn’t the only one with problems, either – her best friend’s father has lost his job and has been talking about moving the two of them across the country to Seattle.  Bummed, Molly helps her friend to fill out an application for a contest that will help her win money by using a business idea – selling homemade bracelets.  While Molly is close to her friend, it’s heartbreaking to see the way that she has to hide some things from her, because she feels that she can’t tell anyone.  This causes their friendship to feel strained at times.

Finding Perfect is such a realistic middle grade book that is perfect for people of any age – even adults!  I’m in my twenties and I loved this book so much.  It had a fantastic message and is written in a way that I believe anyone will be able to relate to Molly’s struggle if they feel alone in hiding something that they think is a problem with them.  Whether you have OCD, know someone with it, or just want to learn more about it or educate your children, this is a brilliant novel that really depicts how scary it can be to live with this condition and not understand what is going on.  If you’ve ever felt as though you had to hide something important from someone, something that is harming your health, because you aren’t sure how others will handle it, this book is for you.

5 stars
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4 Responses to Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz

  1. Elly Swartz says:

    I am beyond honored by your gracious review! Thank you for loving Molly as much as I do.

    • Kelly says:

      Thank you so much for stopping by! I’m really glad that you liked the review – I loved the book so much and it’s definitely one I’ll be recommending to everyone I know! Molly’s character was such a real character and it was super easy to connect to her and her journey!

  2. This one sounds so good! It’s hard to find a book that has EVERYTHING you like. I’m adding it to my TBR!

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