Book Reviews

[review] Past Perfect – Leila Sales

Release Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 322
Format: Hardcover
Source: Personal copy

All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.

Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it….

Discovery: I originally got an eARC of this book in August from Galley Grab, but I didn’t have time to read it until last week when I bought a copy. In the month-or-so between, I heard lots of praise for this fun and fancy-free story and knew I’d have to add it to my list of contemporaries.

+     Setting. Whatever stroke of brilliance gave Leila Sales the idea to set a book in a historical re-enactment community, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love YA, but reading stories set in high schools can get exhausting. Summer stories also tend to be set on the beach or in beach towns, and I want something different. Essex was a charming and entertaining place in itself. I will admit that I’ve wondered what life is like for the interpreters in places like Colonial Williamsburg and Fort Mifflin. Leila Sales gives her readers a group of people who are passionate about what they do and still have a sense of humour. After all, it takes a lot of devotion to one’s work to stand around in a heavy costume during the summer and take photos with people you’ll never see again.

The War between Essex and Reenactmentland was also a highlight of the novel: leave it to the teens to make an otherwise-tedious summer into two months of ambushes, pranks and hilarity. I loved the creativity and enthusiasm that each character displayed in different ways. A companion novel that explores Reenactmentland would definitely find its way onto my TBR pile.

+     Voice. I’ve read a few reviews that took issue with Chelsea and her narration of the book. It is understandable that Chelsea is a little self-centered or oblivious to things around her–she’s a teenager and at that age, the smallest dilemmas can blow up to gargantuan proportions. That said, I enjoyed her generally optimistic nature and her insistence on finding the humour in any problem. Readers will find it easy to sympathize with Chelsea because she genuinely wants to be a better person.

–      Pacing. Past Perfect is a quick read, but I do feel like some of the characters were underused because of how fast it moves. Bryan and Tawny stood out the most among the supporting characters and I would have liked to see more of their actions throughout the war. Of course, this book is from Chelsea’s point-of-view, so any additional time spent with Bryan might not be great for him, but it would certainly give the reader more to work with.

Recommendations: Definitely check out Past Perfect if you’re looking for a thoughtful romp through a historical reenactment town. You’ll never look at period costumes the same way again.

Rating: Very good.

Go visit  Leila Sales at her website and follow her on Twitter @leilasalesbooks.

You can check out Past Perfect on Goodreads and order it over at Amazon and Book Depository.

Next review: Clockwork Angel, Cassandra Clare


3 replies »

  1. “I love YA, but reading stories set in high schools can get exhausting. Summer stories also tend to be set on the beach or in beach towns, and I want something different.” <–I second this!! So refreshing!!!

    Glad you enjoyed this, too! I just finished RHYMES WITH CUPID, which was also fantastic! I'm reading EPIC FAIL now 🙂

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