Review: Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano


Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: young adult
Format/Source: ARC, from the publisher
Status: First books in the Internment Chronicles series


 Disclaimer: I received a copy of Perfect Ruin from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Summary:
On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan's older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.


Review:
I loved this. LOVED it. I mean, the Chemical Garden trilogy was interesting, but I am absolutely in love with Internment after only one book. This book is one weird almost-dystopian murder mystery, and I am so into it, it's not even funny.

Morgan is our beloved and utterly unreliable narrator. It is this unreliability that makes me love her and relate to her. Morgan often contemplates where she fits in on Internment, the small city-in-the-sky where Perfect Ruin is set. Why is that such a big deal? Because if you feel like you don't fit in anywhere on Internment, you are pretty likely to attempt to escape, which leads to horrific--often fatal--results. Morgan internalizes everything, but she doesn't always keep her imagination and her wondering quiet enough. Pen, her best friend; Basil, her betrothed; and her parents are constantly worried by the questions Morgan dares to ask. Internment makes a play of being a safe, almost retro, community, but it is well named. Morgan is aware of the danger of speaking about ideas bigger than her world, but she can't always control herself not to share them. I found myself really relating to her as she attempts to navigate the tricky world of growing up, namely, her place in her unstable community and her evolving relationships.

Speaking of relationships: Basil is a boss. That is all. I know I find a book boyfriend in just about every book I've ever read, but Basil is truly one of the best. He's protective of Morgan without being overbearing or misogynistic, the way Pen's betrothed Thomas can be. I would say he's more Morgan's best friend than Pen is. Morgan feels so alone, but the scenes where Basil tells Morgan he knows her, not just her secrets but knows her as a person, really touched me. He's unwaveringly loyal, which is always one trait that I find most admirable in any person, real or fictional. He's...solid, a truly good guy. When I read the description of Perfect Ruin, it talks about Judas, and I found myself thinking, "Oh, so she's betrothed to one guy, he'll be a tool, she'll fall for the other one, blah blah blah," but then, as I was reading, I kept hoping my assumed love triangle would never present itself because I love Basil so much. And it's great. Not to give too much away, but I did like that Morgan and Basil had the opportunity to explore their quickly changing relationship, from friends who always knew they'd be together to actual romantic partners. It's so much more real and thus more powerful than most ya relationships where the characters meet and fall for one another in only one book. Not saying those can't be done well, but they're more common and yeah, it is harder to do it right. I hate the term "insta-love" and the derision most readers claim to have for it (I don't think all of you are being 100% truthful, tbh), but it is nice to have something different. Basil and Morgan's relationship was portrayed quite well. I like that they have history, and that it is a good history, but one a reader doesn't feel like they don't properly understand. 

There are several notable secondary characters: Morgan's brother Lex and his wife Alice. Pen and her betrothed Thomas. Judas, the supposed murderer. Amy, the murdered girl's sister. And there are a couple more, but they come in later so I don't want to talk about them too much. You'll have to read to meet them! In short, Lex is a very cerebral character. It's clear he suffers from genius, to put it bluntly. He's one of those people that is so brilliant that it almost handicaps them. Ironic because he was blinded after his failed attempt to jump off Internment. Alice is a lovely character. I hope her presence will remain a large part of Burning Kingdoms. She's a great comfort to Lex, obviously, but also to Morgan. The girls have a lot in common. They both love Lex, but at times they aren't enough for him. He disappears. It's great that they have each other.

I must be a weirdo because Lauren keeps talking about how readers love Pen, how everyone is begging not to kill her. Personally, I found Pen a bit on the annoying side. I am just so much more like Morgan that I had a hard time relating to Pen in any way. She's one of those girls who belongs anywhere, everywhere. She lives in a small pond and has adjusted herself to be the perfect-sized fish for it. She's comfortable, and that isn't something that made me particularly care for her as a character. Thomas also was kind of a throwaway for me. I don't like that Pen treats him so poorly when the boy clearly adores her, but at the same time, he's kind of a pain so I understood why she was mean to him in the first place. Thomas does have a couple redeeming scenes in which I admired his backbone, but mostly, I found them to be a bit of a distraction. Judas is obviously a conundrum. Still not sure where exactly Lauren is directing his story, but he's certainly intriguing. Amy is also a complete mystery. She shows up at the most random times and places and really rachets up the tension during critical scenes. I don't want to be specific with these two as they are intrinsically tied to the mystery of Internment, and this is one book I don't want to spoil for you. Suffice it to say, I like that they both develop relationships with Morgan separate from the life she has had up to the events of Perfect Ruin.  They are both very valuable characters, and I look forward to learning more about them as the series goes on.

Feeling alone and apart is not an uncommon theme in ya, but I love that Lauren, who has admitted struggles with anxiety, writes so poignantly about this trial. Morgan and Lex both suffer from some form of depression or anxiety. As I have stated, they internalize a lot. They wonder. They feel too big for a small world, but they also feel quite small as well. I tweeted Lauren while I was reading, and we had a conversation about the book (you ROCK, Lauren). She said Lex is one of her favorites ever. I told her that while Lex's blindness is most definitely a disability, it's almost like he sees things more clearly without his sight. It's like Lex is more able to tune out the bs and focus on the important things. I suffer from depression and anxiety myself so I'm really glad that there's a novel that talks about the fight against it without being about it, if that makes sense. I mean, I love contemporaries that are about depression, but sometimes, it's nice to see characters in a genre fic have Real Life Problems in addition the crazypants plot going on.

The world of Internment is not one hundred percent unique as I found myself constantly flashing to the worlds represented in The Giver by Lois Lowry and Matched by Ally Condie, what with the designated betrothals, emphasis on equality, and other details such as birth control and education. However, I do like that Internment's location adds a really cool-yet-dangerous physical element to the story. There are times when the setting itself is an antagonist, which is a device vastly underused in young adult literature, although it is usually not an available option so it's usually no fault of ya authors.

Basically, you need to read this book. Wither was an interesting look at unwanted arranged relationships while describing a society in which everybody is going to die and soon. Perfect Ruin, on the other hand, portray several functional and loving arranged relationships while describing a murderous society in a hostile and confining environment. Sound like fun? Trust me, it really is. You'll be begging for book number two (titled Burning Kingdoms) before you've even finished the first. Lauren DeStefano is one of those authors where you will love her while wanting to throw something at her. Don't believe me? I'll leave you with the first tweets of my conversation with Lauren during my read:

Book Links:
 photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg  photo 111AD205-AA04-4F9E-A0F4-C1264C4E9F30-1855-000001A1E8CEB6D7_zps9b730b94.jpg  photo KoboIcon_zps515cdc1a.jpg  photo B1426D4C-9EEC-4C0B-A1FB-90524B03C0CA-1855-000001A1E82B3B3E_zps17d98f4d.jpg

About the Author:
Lauren DeStefano was born in New Haven, Connecticut and has never traveled far from the east coast. She received a BA in English from Albertus Magnus College, and has been writing since childhood. She made her authorial debut by writing on the back of children's menus at restaurants and filling up the notepads in her mom's purse. Her very first manuscript was written on a yellow legal pad with red pen, and it was about a haunted shed that ate small children.

Now that she is all grown up (for the most part), she writes fiction for young adults. Her failed career aspirations include: world's worst receptionist, coffee house barista, sympathetic tax collector, and English tutor. When she isn't writing, she's screaming obscenities at her Nintendo DS, freaking her cats out with the laser pen, or rescuing thrift store finds and reconstructing them into killer new outfits.

Author Links:
   

18 comments:

  1. I didn't particularly like The Chemical Garden books (I only read 2 of them) but I might try this one out! Great review!

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    1. Thank you! I think it's even better than TCG, which was a bit bogged down toward the end.

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  2. I loved The Chemical Garden books and I can't wait to read this new book! Thanks for the review, I'm glad you liked it, it makes me even more excited to read it :)

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    1. Thank you so much! Glad to increase some hype!

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  3. I am dying to get my hands on this book! I love the whole setting and that it is a mystery at heart. I can't wait!

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    1. Hope you can snag a copy soon, Susan, because it's wonderful!

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  4. I'm so excited for this book!

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  5. I am so excited about this! Really hoping for it for my birthday! (:

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    1. And make sure that library of your orders it too. It's one that needs to be shared with everybody!

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  6. I need to read this book! I really liked Wither, so I think I would definitely enjoy reading this one. It sounds so good!

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    1. Trust me, it's fantastic. It's different from Wither, but not so different. You can tell it's still Lauren behind the words.

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  7. LOVED Perfect Ruin as well! There's no way I can survive the wait for Book 2. :P

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    1. Oh, I know. Goodreads says February, but Lauren announced that it will, in fact, be October 2014. *dies*

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  8. Looks/Sounds interesting! I'll try it out!

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  9. I have loved all of Lauren's books and her statements on society. There is not alot of fashion and romance in her books and I like that.

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  10. This looks great! I read the Chemical Garden trilogy and really liked it, but it seemed to be missing that WOW factor. Sounds like this one is worth checking out. Thanks for your review. :)

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