ARC Review: Perfect on Paper

Her advice, spot on. Her love life, way off.

Darcy Phillips:
– Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes―for a fee.
– Uses her power for good. Most of the time.
– Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.
– Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.
– Does not appreciate being blackmailed.

However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89―out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service―that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach―at a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.

Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.

Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?

  • Title: Perfect on Paper
  • Author: Sophie Gonzales 
  • Publisher: Wednesday Books
  • Genre: Contemporary,  YA, Romance, Rom Com, LGBTQ 
  • Age Range: YA
  • Trigger warnings: alcohol, drugs (marijuana), cheating, vomiting, biphobia (external and internalized), absent parents, toxic parents, divorce
  • Rating:  ★★★★★

Growing up, I spent hours pouring over teen magazine advice columns, whether that was Seventeen or Teen Vogue, or anything else I read. I never sent something in myself, but I was always curious about the advice that was given. More so, a part of me was always curious about the person who was answering those questions, and how they operated. I suppose I could’ve always looked into it further, but that never occurred to my twelve-year-old self. When I saw Perfect on Paper was centered around an anonymous relationship advice service, I instantly added it to my TBR. 

But what made Perfect on Paper become one of my most anticipated 2021 releases was Sophie Gonzales’ note on Goodreads about how it’s a subtweet for people who think “a bi person who is in a relationship with a different gender is not correct queer rep”. 

“It’s when bisexuals start to believe the biphobia they’re surrounded by. We’re told that our sexuality isn’t real, or that we’re straight if we’re with another gender, and that our feelings don’t count if we’ve never dated a certain gender, that kind of crap. Then we hear it so many times we doubt ourselves.”

As someone who is bisexual, I’ve never seen such an honest and validating representation of a bisexual character that openly discusses internalized biphobia, and it was very healing for me to read. There isn’t one universal bisexual experience, but the bisexual representation in Perfect on Paper is one that really resonated with me. Perfect on Paper addresses internalized and externalized biphobia in such an authentic way; how we’re told that we have to just choose a gender, how much it hurts when we get weird looks for telling someone we have feelings for someone of another gender when we’ve been mostly having feelings for someone of the same gender, and how sometimes those comments can come from within the queer community. Just like Darcy, I’ve also been told that I’m not “gay enough”, and that being bisexual is easier than being a lesbian by a close friend of mine. Perfect on Paper was the first time where I’ve read a book that addresses this head-on, and a book that will forever have a place in my heart for this reason. Perfect on Paper is also a beautiful celebration of bisexuality, with Darcy finding solidarity within the Queer and Questioning (Q&Q) club at her school. 

If I had to associate Darcy Phillips with a song lyric, I’d say she’s the “she is messy, but she’s kind” line from She Used to Be Mine. It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for kindhearted main characters, and Darcy is no exception. That’s not to say that Darcy doesn’t make mistakes throughout the course of the book, because she does, but how she approaches those mistakes is more telling of her character. Her motivation for starting her anonymous relationship advice service isn’t to profit off of people’s stories and is revealed to us early on. She truly works on repairing situations – whether they’re ones that she learns about through people’s anonymous letters or other circumstances she’s found herself in, and genuinely tries to do good in the world. 

While Perfect on Paper made me simultaneously nostalgic for when I used to spend hours reading advice columns, it also reminded me of my college days. In undergrad, one of my minors was education, learning & society, so between that and my social work program, I was pretty familiar with attachment theories. I remember sitting in my 200-something-person lecture hall, and feeling personally attacked then, but I wasn’t expecting how called out reading Perfect on Paper would make me feel. 

All this to say, I really loved how Darcy’s advice was almost always rooted in some form of theory and observation. 

The relationships in Perfect on Paper truly shine. Whether romantic, platonic, or familial, all of them have been developed with such care and thoroughness. The ensemble cast of characters, in addition to Darcy and Brougham, feel so messy and real. They’re reminiscent of people I know and thoroughly three-dimensional. 

Something I really enjoyed about Perfect on Paper was how most chapters either started with a letter addressed to Locker 89, or a character profile. I loved getting to see the type of letters that Darcy responded to, and her responses – all of which were incredibly thorough and felt like real high school problems. Darcy’s answers were always thorough, and it’s easy to believe that she had such a high “success rate”. By including Darcy’s character analyses of herself, Brougham, and other characters, it was evident how they developed over the book, as well as Darcy’s changing perception of them. 

More specifically, Darcy’s evolution of Brougham’s character analyses was monumental in allowing the reader’s perception of him to change.   The annoyance-to-friends-lovers relationship between Brougham and Darcy was so well-written. While I’m normally not a fan of miscommunication as a plot device, I found the use of miscommunication that kicked off Darcy’s annoyance for Brougham to be completely believable. I loved watching Brougham’s walls come down, and watching how Darcy’s perception of him changed over time.

Overall, I absolutely adored Perfect on Paper, and would recommend it to anyone who loved The Half of It, and Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, or anyone looking for an easy read! 

Links for Perfect on Paper: Goodreads | TheStorygraph | Bookshop | Indie Bound 

Sophie Gonzales was born and raised in Whyalla, South Australia, where the Outback Meets the Sea. She now lives in Melbourne, where there’s no outback in sight, but slightly better shopping opportunities. Sophie loves punk music, frilly pink skirts, and juxtapositions.

Sophie has been writing since the age of five, when her mother decided to help her type out one of the stories she had come up with in the bathtub. They ran into artistic differences when five-year-old Sophie insisted that everybody die in the end, while her mother wanted the characters to simply go out for a milkshake.

Since then, Sophie has been completing her novels without a transcriptionist.

Follow Sophie: Website | Instagram | Twitter

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