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Future Perfect

Review

Future Perfect

In her first young adult novel FUTURE PERFECT, STRANGER HERE author Jen Larsen (she also wrote the memoir STRANGER HERE) details the senior year of Ashley Perkins, a straight-A student, captain of the volleyball team and ex-class president who also happens to be fat. Although Ashley is happy with both her life and her body, Ashley’s grandmother refuses to accept her the way she is, offering Ashley a card every year on her birthday stating the amount of weight she needs to lose in order to receive a gift. Up until Ashley’s latest birthday, Ashley has been able to resist the temptation of her grandmother’s promises of shopping trips, cars and vacations to Paris, refusing to change herself just to make her grandmother happy. During Ashley’s latest birthday, her grandmother offers her a way to make her dreams of being a doctor come true: tuition to Harvard University, only provided if Ashley agrees to weight loss surgery. As Ashley faces this tough decision, she receives advice from friends, family and even school administrators, all of whom believe they know the key to Ashley’s happiness.

 

The message of FUTURE PERFECT is both uplifting and lovable...Ashley’s journey towards loving herself makes the novel an inspiring read for anyone struggling to figure out who they are.

The message of FUTURE PERFECT is both uplifting and lovable, as Ashley learns that taking care of herself both mentally and physically is more important than what anyone else thinks. The transition of Ashley’s mental state, however, can be confusing at times. Ashley is very confident in herself at the beginning of the novel, accepting her body the way it is, but her seemingly unwavering confidence is shattered by her grandmother’s offer to pay for Harvard. In addition, Ashley’s only issue appears to be her weight, which sometimes makes it difficult for the reader to relate.

Ashley’s friends --- an aspiring artist named Laura and a transgender girl named Jolene --- are both likeable characters who support Ashley, but they too feel unrealistic at times. It seemed unfeasible that Laura could take off to visit her older boyfriend in San Francisco on a whim, and Larson struggles to write Jolene as more than just her gender identity; almost every conversation Ashley and Jolene have revolves around Jolene’s transsexuality. Sometimes the plot struggles to push forward, as Ashley considers the idea of weight loss surgery over and over again. Larson’s writing also feels inconsistent, as there are times when the descriptions of Ashley’s joyrides around the coast create beautiful imagery, and there are other times when the abruptness of Ashley’s thoughts do not match her seemingly gifted intelligence.



Even with some frustrating aspects, FUTURE PERFECT provides a refreshing take on something often discussed: self-acceptance. Ashley’s journey towards loving herself makes the novel an inspiring read for anyone struggling to figure out who they are, or for any high school seniors who can relate to Ashley’s hesitance to turn in her college essays. Ashley’s inner dialogue is often hilarious, if not always relatable, and the situations she is placed in are entertaining to watch unfold. The warm, peaceful, feeling left after the end of FUTURE PERFECT makes the novel worth the read.

Reviewed by Janine C. on October 7, 2015

Future Perfect
by Jen Larsen