In today’s #MeToo world where celebrities are harassing fans faster than they can accumulate Emmy awards and women are on a mission to raise awareness about feminism as they wear vagina hats, it can be a confusing place to be a woman or raise a daughter. It seems the only slant is to be a #NastyWoman and to be one to the extreme. So how do we raise girls in this day and age to be strong enough to figure out who they are before society suggests a label? Perhaps the best way is with a book.
I recently read Seeking Perfect by Jeri Bronson, a YA novel written in third person point of view about a teenage girl named Jesse Barnes. Set in modern day Jesse’s father left years before the story starts leaving her alone with an abusive and neglectful mother. Jesse’s goal is to stay on her mother’s peripheral and graduate high school with grades that will get her enough scholarship money to free her from the painful life she endures.
Jesse and her mother, Sheila, haven’t lived in Parkhaven, Oregon for very long, but Jesse knows how to survive: go unnoticed – by everyone. This works for a while and Jesse finds her escape at the cozy bookstore with her boss, Charlotte. Until Derek Aames notices her and wedges himself into her daily routine. He shares his lunch for her, falls in love with her and in doing so, and brings some of the more common teenage challenges into Jesse’s life. And who has time for that when she’s just trying to get through the next six months until she turns eighteen?
While reading Seeking Perfect, I struggled—for a handful of reasons. I prefer first or second person POV to third. I like novels with a slightly darker theme, which is why I’d chosen to read Bronson’s novel. I was surprised that Sheila and her awful boyfriend were background characters. I also prefer characters who demonstrate a bit more grit than Jesse did.
Written with more summary than scene, Seeking Perfect is a quick read with a semblance of a happily ever after kind of ending. But after I read it, I kept thinking about Jesse Barnes and young women in general. Her story caused me to reflect on my worldview as well as how the world views women and that’s something I appreciate greatly in a book.
If you’re a young woman or the mother of a young woman, Seeking Perfect is a novel worth reading if you have…questions. Questions like: How independent should a young woman be? Are men supposed to be knights in shining armor? Always ready to save the damsel in distress? When is _____________ enough? Whether __________ is invisibility, isolation, righteous indignation, anger (even justified anger), or survival, when is it right for a person to stand up for herself? How and when are community members supposed to intervene to help another person? What do you do when decisions are made for you—even if the decisions are better than what you’re dealing with? Where does your value and sense of worth come from? What would you do if the bad guys never left?
My girls are grown now, two of them mothers themselves, and I can only hope I did a good job of teaching them to find their own identity along the way. In some ways, I can relate to Jesse, and if her story had been around when I was in junior high school, I think I would have learned a lot from her. I might even have made fewer mistakes along the way.
Seeking Perfect is scheduled to be released March 21, 2018 by Soul Mate Publishing, New York. It's currently available for pre-order on Amazon.