Page Count: 336
Release Date: January 13th, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Simon Pulse and Itching for Books!)
In this second book in the Superlatives trilogy from Endless Summer author Jennifer Echols, Harper and Brody think they’re an unlikely match—but the senior class says they belong together.
As yearbook photographer, Harper is responsible for those candid moments that make high school memorable. But her own life is anything but picture perfect. Her parents’ bitter divorce left her wondering what a loving relationship looks like. And ever since the senior class voted her and star quarterback Brody “Perfect Couple That Never Was,” her friends have been pushing her to ask Brody out.
Brody doesn’t lack female admirers, but Harper can't see herself with him. He’s confused about the match too. Yet they find themselves drawn together—first by curiosity about why the class paired them, then by an undeniable bond.
The trouble is, though they’re attracted to each other, they have a hard time getting along or even communicating well. If they’re the perfect couple, this shouldn’t be so difficult! Soon it becomes clear their class was wrong, and they throw in the towel. But they feel so changed from making the effort, they can’t forget each other. What if this match made in hell is the perfect couple after all?
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We'd been in various advanced classes together since middle school, but the way he dressed made him look like he'd taken a wrong turn from the gym. That's how Brody had always been: grinning, a bit of a mess, and a world away from me.
Jennifer Echols's Superlatives series stands out to me because it follows three best friends, Tia, Harper, and Kaye, and their romantic lives—each book designated for each respective girl—in a modern-day high school setting. Contemporary YA romance is probably my favorite genre (ever!) so I quite enjoyed Biggest Flirts, which is Tia's story. Perfect Couple is Harper's story, and while it does contain the same youthful charm as the first book did, I didn't find myself enjoying it as much.
This book wasn't boring or hard to read in the least bit; overall, I got through it quickly and did not regret picking it up. It's just that I wasn't very invested in the main characters, whose realness was one of the primary strengths in Biggest Flirts.
Harper, our first-person narrator, is rather bratty and immature for being the smart one, which irritated me a lot. At first I was thrilled that this second book was told in her perspective since she's the bookworm of the three friends, but I found myself rolling my eyes at her so-called intelligence frequently. It's one thing for a protagonist to be Type A, but completely another for her to overreact at every "injustice" that she is slammed with and to have the most redundant obsessive tendencies-slash-paranoia. She isn't just anxious, but also a generally bad person: flighty, superficial, completely absorbed in what other people think of her and her social status, instantly in love with Brody even though she has a boyfriend.
I think I feel this harshly because she isn't just unlikable, but she's also weakly characterized. Echols doesn't give her enough of a personality or relatable voice, as she did with Tia. Harper's dialogue comes off as rather stilted and her point of view is very info dumpy.
The second-most annoying part of the book: the insta-love. There are SO many things I can contribute to this topic (considering ~80% of the romance novels I've read involve an undeveloped romance plot line) but I'll refrain from using this review as a ranting space. But literally, Harper has always known Brody as the hot unachievable athlete, but suddenly decides she's worthy of him because of the yearbook superlatives—because other people think so. Not because she discovers she likes him, or because she discovers he likes her, but because other people told her so. Being voted for Perfect Couple that Never Was (is that REALLY a thing, people? Really?? Anyone have that in their own yearbook?!) does not mean they're together... but Harper thinks it means they're immediately in a relationship. Unfortunately, Brody doesn't see it that way (as expected) even though he does find her attractive, which is where things go awry.
Speaking of Brody, he's fun, but still a rather flat and undeveloped character. The instant love may have been problematic, but in addition he was just too plain—nothing special. More importantly, I didn't feel he and Harper had any chemistry, despite their superlative nominations. The whole relationship, the basis of the novel, just didn't convince me. A poor romance plot could be justified by likable leads or tons of character development, but in Perfect Couple, I found none. Brody remains the same dull "hero" until the end of the book, and Harper the equally snooty "heroine."
One thing I do applaud is how Harper has other things going on at home; her attention isn't solely fixated on Brody. She feels tied down to her mom's B&B, rarely lending her time to do what SHE wants—which, okay, isn't the toughest family situation YA has ever encountered, but it's still a refreshing break from the hardly believable Brody mess. Eventually, being named to the Perfect Couple title with him makes her realize something more than her attraction: that her world is smaller than it needs to be since she is doing what other people want or expect, instead of exploring all her possibilities. I think this is a valid lesson that all young adults will learn at some point in their lives, so I'm glad it was a part of Harper's story.
Light, easy-flowing plot // Lots of drama (that every good high school romance needs) // Recurring characters (Tia, Sawyer, Will, etc.) make the cast seem more familiar, like revisiting old friends // Grounding and realistic lessons about teenage love, not just a formulaic boy-meets-girl story
Weak dialogue // Unremarkable and unrealistic plot // Harper is unlikable and melodramatic // Brody is unmemorable // No character development. At all // Internal and external conflicts are too disparate // Echols's style isn't anything to write home about // Disappointing after Book 1, Biggest Flirts