Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking those links, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no extra cost to you.Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on July 10, 2012
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Format: Hardcover (352 pages)
Purchase: Amazon • IndieBound
Add Book: Goodreads • Bookhype
Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him to live a life of carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra can stand out next to Grayson is to be perfect, and she has perfection down to an art -- until a cheating scandal threatens her flawless reputation.
Behind the wheel of her car, with Grayson asleep beside her, Kendra decides to drive away from it all -- with enough distance, maybe she'll be able to figure everything out. But eventually, Kendra must stop running and come to terms with herself, her brother, and her past.
With undeniable grace and humor, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown explores OCD, the pressure for perfection, and the emotional highs and lows of a complex sibling relationship.
Proceed With Caution:
This book does contain mentions of suicide and verbal abuse.
This is told in first person from Kendra’s perspective. She’s seventeen and feels like she’s always been in her older brother’s shadow, but not because he’s smarter or more talented or the usual reason. Grayson has severe OCD, anxiety, and depression. He’s in and out of treatment and receives a lot of (needed) attention from their parents. Kendra works hard to be the “perfect” daughter to get their love and attention, but the pressure is getting to her.
I’ve read a couple of others books from this author, so I knew I would enjoy Perfect Escape. I was expecting a fun road trip mixed with emotional gut punches. Particularly because I have OCD, as well as my mother. It’s hard. Neither of us are as bad off as Grayson is, but we’ve each had periods in our lives where it felt like the compulsions and obsessions were taking over. I do think the author did a great job showing Grayon’s OCD, and a few of his quirks were ones that I’m intimately familiar with.
“He told me about a year ago that if he stopped counting on an odd number, it meant that someone he love would die.” (pg 47)
While counting is one of my compulsions, it’s not for the same reason. But I do have to walk (sit, lay, etc) on the left of people or else I feel like they’re going to die.
“Grayson counted his French fries, tearing the last one in two, and lining them up in order of smallest to largest on his plate.”(pg 154)
As a kid, I did this with chips. I had to count them, arrange them into “broken” and “whole” rows, then arrange them by size and eat them in order. I still eat this way, but I’ve cut out the counting. I also arranged my Christmas presents under the tree by wrapping paper, shape, size, and then numbered them. My mom thought, at first, that I was just trying to shake them to guess what was inside. Nope. I had to have them sitting in the perfect order and open them in the perfect order. I remember late presents being a source of stress for me.
Back to the book…
The road trip aspect of Perfect Escape was okay. There’s definitely some fun and strange and cringe-worthy moments, especially when it comes to roadside motels. But it never fully drew me in, because Kendra’s big secret overshadowed everything. We know from the beginning that she’s running away from her problems, one of which is that she cheated in Calculus. She’s worried about being expelled along with several other classmates. However, she keeps bringing it up and saying that there’s more to it and that it’s really bad. I was expecting sex scandal, drugs, murder! Something! It’s not that bad. Certainly not worth all of that build up.
Then there’s the matter of her ex best friend, Zoe, who moved away three years prior and has recently stopped replying to calls and messages. We get some history of what went on between Kendra, Grayson, and Zoe, but I don’t think we got all of it. I was definitely confused and unsatisfied when Kendra finally confronts Zoe. What happened?!
Perfect Escape was pretty good. I read it in one afternoon, so it obviously held my attention. But like I said, that was mainly due to wanting to know that Kendra did at school and why she had fallen out with Zoe. Without those two things, there’s just a quirky road trip and Kendra and her sick brother finally expressing their true feelings toward each other and their parents.
Quotes From Perfect Escape
How do you not notice someone’s mental illness when the whole family constantly revolves around it? (pg 7)
Funny how when you had no idea where you were going, really, it seemed as though you would get there really fast. (pg 59)
When there’s someone needy in the house, everyone else has to be need-less. It’s nothing personal. Even if it sometimes feels that way. (pg 73)
“No. That’s not why you’re doing this. You want to make me better so I’m not always causing problems for you.” (pg 265)