Future Perfect by Jen Larsen
Publication: October 6, 2015
Purchase Links: Amazon - Barnes & Noble
(Review copy from Edelweiss)
Every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother—a card that always contains a promise: lose enough weight, and I will buy your happiness.
Ashley doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way she looks, 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—in exchange for undergoing weight loss surgery.
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. But what’s a girl to do when the reflection in her mirror seems to bother everyone but her?
Through her indecisions and doubts, Ashley’s story is a liberating one—a tale of one girl, who knows that weight is just a number, and that no one is completely perfect.
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.
Future Perfect was a perfect example for me of a book that I had to form my own opinions of despite the somewhat mixed early reviews. I love Goodreads, but I feel like too often I rely too much on the ratings there. If something is rated below 3.5 I often decide to lose interest rather than make my own judgments. I am happy that I requested this one for review before I read any reviews because I felt obliged to read it because I definitely ended up liking this one A LOT more than I expected.
For the past couple of years, Ashley has received a card from her grandmother. Though the text is different every year, the message is the same: lose some weight and I will buy you something that will make you happy. Ditching the previous cards has been somewhat easy for Ashley, but when on her 17th birthday she gets a card that could change everything for her, Ashley starts to think that maybe her grandmother is right. Maybe she can't find true happiness and respect if she is fat.
Ever since Ashley was a little kid, she has dreamed of becoming a doctor and studying at Harvard. But tuition's not cheap, and when her grandmother gives her a card telling that if she agrees to go to a weight loss-surgery, she will get Harvard paid. Should Ashley see this as her savior, as something that makes her dream come true, or in fact, is it a bribe, something that makes her dream seem a little less, like something that she cannot reach as herself but as someone else.
Though Ashley's grandmother sounds like a villain from your worst nightmares, I liked the fact that Larsen does not describe her as completely evil entity. The cards and the way the grandmother treats Ashley is veiled as her "caring about" Ashley, and as the book processes, in some weird way you can see the logic behind the actions. As a fat girl, as someone who has been told that life will be harder for me if I don't lose weight, I found the cards and the way Ashley is treated hurtful, much like Ashley herself. But I guess there's also a part of me that understand why someone would say that, especially someone from an older generation. So despite the fact that I did want to hate the grandmother, I couldn't do it without thinking about it more.
One of the most interesting aspects of this novel are the supporting characters, especially Jolene, Ashley's transgender friend. It is with Jolene that we see a whole new side of Ashley's grandmother, who makes sure that Jolene can be whoever she wants to be despite the criticism and ignorance by Jolene's family. The problems Jolene goes through with her identity are somewhat mirrored with what Ashley goes through, but I did respect the distinctions between the two stories made by Larsen and somewhat through the character of Jolene herself - though both struggle with finding themselves and their place in the world, their situations are not the same.
Ashley is an interesting character to read about. She is likable, but also does and says things that made me question her actions. She is struggling, confused and hurt, and sometimes that leads her to saying things that she would not necessarily say otherwise. I enjoyed the development Ashley goes through during the novel from someone who's very confused to someone who has an idea of who she is. The realization she goes through about her body and the way she presents herself to the world felt empowering in the sense that she learns that despite the opinions of others, it is okay for her to be herself.
Like a good contemporary novel, Larsen's Future Perfect blends together family drama, friendships, self-discovery and growing up and a little bit of romance. Though I am all for romantic contemporaries, I liked the fact that this one focused more on Ashley and the other relationships in her life, most importantly the relationship she has with herself. Also, as a massive dog person, I loved how big of a role the dogs Ashley has were in this book. Future Perfect is a proof that dogs make everything better.