Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Kendra Bolten knows what it's like to be overshadowed by a sibling. Her older brother, Grayson, is a genius, but his OCD forces him to live life through a series of carefully coordinated routines. It seems as if he can't survive without counting, symmetry, constantly washing his hands - and the whole family revolving around him. Kendra feels that the only way she can shine in the presence of her brother is to be perfect - something she has down to an art. She's a straight-A student, has plenty of extracurricular activities, and always makes the right decisions. But when Kendra finds herself the ringleader of a cheating scandal in her Calc class, her mistake could jeopardize the perfection she's worked so hard to attain.
For once she knows exactly how Grayson feels when he expresses his wish to just run away from his OCD. Behind the wheel of her hand-me-down car, with Grayson asleep in the passenger seat, Kendra makes a decision. Together, they'll drive away from it all - get some distance, find help for Grayson, prove that she's still the perfect girl-in-control - and maybe her colossal mistake will look a little more forgivable. Eventually though, no matter how far they go, there is nothing for Kendra to do but to face what she's been running from. (Description from Date A Book)
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I'm a little rusty on review writing. I've been taking a break, and picking a book I want to gush about as my first review back was probably a bad idea - but it does deserve a bit of gushing. Not to be all clichéd or anything, but this book really was a perfect escape from heavy and over complicated stories and stressful real-life. While Kendra was at times very young and selfish, I loved her voice. It was a really touching story, especially with all the sibling interactions – I just adored it all.
Usually you think of road trips as a holiday; travelling over the country with the windows rolled down and music blasting on the radio. Kendra's trip in Perfect Escape was a bit different. Disguised as a road trip, but really an escape from reality, Kendra and her brother Grayson struggle to outrun issues they've left behind at home. For Kendra it's a high school mistake that threatens to destroy her perfect daughter and student status; and for Grayson it's an involuntary test of letting go of his constricting OCD struggles. What I loved about this book was that the main characters were fighting to find themselves without coming from broken families. There was no divorce or abuse, just a slight disconnection from each other; but Kendra and Grayson learn to be siblings again, and I adored seeing them get there.
It's hard to discuss the OCD focus in this novel without destroying how powerful it was. Perfect Escape is not the first book I’ve read with characters facing OCD, but it is the first I've read in a realistic setting. I loved the way Jennifer Brown tackled the topic, letting us see the good and bad sides of the condition, but allowing us to see that moving outside of a comfort zone can help the good days shine a bit. Grayson struggles when he's not counting, and his fears and anxieties often take over. But he was such an intelligent character and the emotion that came through every time he took that step outside of his self imposed safety box made me smile so much. I absolutely adored Grayson.
My favourite part of this book was not the road trip, or even the way OCD was approached, but the sibling interactions. So often in books siblings might exist, but actually seeing them interact becomes a minor part of the book. Perfect Escape isn't like that. With no romance and no real focus on a strong friendship except flashbacks to a Too-Perfect-To-Be-Real life from before, the main relationship in this book falls on Kendra and Grayson's connection. They fight, they argue, they drive each other mental, and they would do anything to be in the other's shoes. But all of that is overshadowed by the fact that they love each other. And I loved them in turn for being so real.
This was my first Jennifer Brown book, but I definitely want to read her other novels, because Perfect Escape really touched me. I loved it.
(originally posted on Goodreads)