I’ve been a fan of Jennifer Brown since her debut, Hate List, blew me away. I think she has a way with handling tough issues with honesty, and I expected the same from her latest book.
Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him to live a life of carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra can stand out next to Grayson is to be perfect, and she has perfection down to an art -- until a cheating scandal threatens her flawless reputation.
Behind the wheel of her car, with Grayson asleep beside her, Kendra decides to drive away from it all -- with enough distance, maybe she'll be able to figure everything out. But eventually, Kendra must stop running and come to terms with herself, her brother, and her past.
With undeniable grace and humor, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown explores OCD, the pressure for perfection, and the emotional highs and lows of a complex sibling relationship.
Perfect Escape is a road trip book, but it is far from your typical Epic Detour road trip. It took its time to explore the complex relationship between siblings, which makes up the core of the novel. I really liked the twist on this type of "road trip" used more to isolate and bring the characters to the forefront with nowhere to hide.
Kendra, our narrator, is involved with a cheating scandal at her school which causes her to take off across the country with her older brother who has OCD. While I thought that she built up her mistake too much, I can understand perfectly where she’s coming from--which was a detail I think Brown understands as well. She perfectly narrows down the focus and shows she understands how something that might seem like an insignificant event to a reader would just feel like the apocalypse to a perfectionist like Kendra living in the shadow of her brother.
With pretty much only two main characters (plus the random lady and her baby, which I did think was interesting but very sub-plot-y) the range and depth of these two should have impressed me. The rocky dynamics between Kendra and Grayson far exceeded the strength of the characters as individuals (particularly Grayson) though. Brown uses the metaphor of shadows later on in the book, and I think it has to be my favourite aspect of Perfect Escape. It was simple, yet completely realistic because I felt the same thing with my older brother.
I liked how Brown didn’t try and do too much with the book, she doesn’t throw in random issues for the sake of issues, but it is also a weaker aspect. There isn’t much to distract the reader when things start feeling slightly repetitive. The thing with this book is that while there are many admirable qualities, it fails to “stay” with me after finishing. While Perfect Escape does a great job with what it aims to do, it is ultimately kind of forgettable.
Rating in HP Terms: Acceptable
Recommended for: contemporary fans, people interested in a book about OCD
8/10 – because while I find it hard to recall characters’ names a week later, I still remember enjoying this read. It doesn’t feel as much as an “issue book” as it does a book that deals with the intricacies of family and familial bonds. I wish there was a bit more to the plot but I liked the strong depiction of Kendra and Grayson’s history and strained interactions. I though Kendra was an extremely believable character in particular, but unfortunately she couldn’t carry the book on her own.