Past Perfect

Past Perfect by Leila Sales

Adorable Cover. It makes me really want this jacket.

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….  (Goodreads)

The Story: Chelsea has practically grown up at Essex Historical Colonial Village.  Her parents work there and she has spent every summer for as long as she can remember wearing colonial garb and getting her history on.

This summer, she has big plans. Oh yeah ladies.  There’ll be no more colonial nonsense for Chelsea.  She is going to escape the heat and the annoying tourist’s questions by working at… THE MALL. Laugh if you will but this sounds like heaven to Chelsea—being within the air-conditioned stores and hanging out in the food court with her best friend, Fiona.  But there’s a tiny problem: Fiona backs out of the mall plan and both girls end up working at Essex along with all the other history nerds and with Chelsea’s ex-boyfriend Ezra.  The one she isn’t completely over.

In a funny, Romeo and Juliet-ish way, Chelsea falls for Dave, a guy who works across the road.  This is a major problem because he works for Civil War Renactmentland and they are Enemy Numero Uno.  Like, there’s no way to respect them. They’re farbs. (That’s nerd for Far Be It From Authentic). There’s a pretty brutal war that rages every summer between the teenagers of Essex and those  from Renactmentland. It’s serious business with a ton of hate spewing, awesome pranks and overall bitter discord which all = hilarious.  And the kids at Essex have nominated Chelsea as a Lieutenant in their little history war, which makes her flirtation with Dave seem all the more risky.

My Take:

I absolutely love Leila Sales. Her sense of humor and her overall writing style speak to me on such an awesomely dorky level (this is a compliment, I assure you).  She completely understands what it is to be a normal girl (meaning, not someone who’s going to save their whole town, or fall in love with a wolf, or find out she’s an angel).  Her characters are quirky and loveable and it’s so easy to see yourself or people you know in each of them. Also, in this book she uses history not only in a comical way, but to help her characters measure themselves and grow from the past.

Like Mostly Good Girls, Past Perfect is full of funny moments (like pretty much every time she describes her father and his rhetorical questions I wanted to die laughing) and sweetness.  I LOVED Chelsea.  She was hilarious.  Her relationship with Fiona was perfect—like any conversation you would have had with your high school bestie—and her moments with Dave had just the right balance of cute awkwardness and swoon.  He was ridiculously adorable.  Also, the nerds.  How can I not mention the nerds?  The kids at Essex are history buffs (something I relate to since I’m married to an eighth grade history teacher and let me tell you, between his history love and my book obsession it is Nerd City over here).  Some of them are the cool nerds. Some are the dorkiest of nerds. But they all get their geek on for historical accuracy which means that they’re all, in a word, awesome.

Crush Intensity: 4.5/5 Leila Sales is perfect. I’m already dying for her to write a new book!

Special thanks to Simon & Schuster for offering me an e-galley of this book!

Mostly Good Girls

Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales

The higher you aim, the farther you fall….

It’s Violet’s junior year at the Westfield School. She thought she’d be focusing on getting straight As, editing the lit mag, and figuring out how to talk to boys without choking on her own saliva. Instead, she’s just trying to hold it together in the face of cutthroat academics, her crush’s new girlfriend, and the sense that things are going irreversibly wrong with her best friend, Katie.

When Katie starts making choices that Violet can’t even begin to fathom, Violet has no idea how to set things right between them. Westfield girls are trained for success—but how can Violet keep her junior year from being one huge epic failure?

Alright, before I get going here, it’s confession time:  Leila Sales is totally my new best friend.  My Author MFEO.  My pal.  I mean, she doesn’t know this, but she totally is.   Truthfully, I don’t know her,  but I stalk read her blog and girlfriend is hilarious.  Seriously, she is so funny.  And I love people who are funny in what seems like an effortless way, so clearly I loved this book.  Loved. It.

Mostly Good Girls is the story of Violet and Katie.  They are best friends (like me and Leila Sales?  Sadly, no. They actually know each other) who are juniors at the Westfield School, which is an elite, all-girls school for the more academically inclined.  The girls there are not only bright, they’re driven and highly competitive. Neither Violet nor Katie has much experience in the realm of boys but they are desperately in love with Scott Walsh from Harper Woodbane, Westfield’s brother school.  Between Violet’s love for Scott, her obsessive need to have straight A’s and her job as the editor of the school’s literary magazine, she has alot on her plate.  She finds comfort in her friendship with Katie—the one person who knows everything about her and likes her anyway.

Violet begins to see changes in Katie.  First, she lies about getting a perfect score on her PSATs (yes, her pre SATs.  Even those are a huge deal at Westfield)—choosing to hide the victory that most students there would flaunt.  Then she starts showing antipathy toward Westfield, its students and their ivy-league aspirations.  She starts liking boys that aren’t your run of the mill perfect Adonis Harper Woodbane type and more of the slacker/stoner variety. To make matters worse, Scott Walsh has a girlfriend, meaning he is not going to fall headoverheelsinlove withViolet forever and ever!!  Gasp!

Mostly Good Girls is simply about knowing who you are and what you want.  Further, it explores the idea of the expectations we tend to put not only on ourselves but on those we love.  The world in which Violet and Katie live is full of high ideals and lofty goals—many placed on them by themselves, their school headmistress, and their families (in Katie’s case, at least)—but as much pressure as that can be, it’s worse when these expectations come from your best friend. On the other hand, Violet has to adapt to being friends with Katie when she feels she hardly recognizes her and when she’s worried about who she is becoming.

I felt that the relationship between Violet and Katie was so perfectly written.  The conversations about boys, school and life felt real and took me back to my own high school days (and to some convos Vee and I still have).  I related to Violet in her need to do things just right so as not to disappoint anyone, including herself.  I felt her concern for Katie, having been the goody-two shoes in my circle of friends who had to watch a friend make decisions that seemed so out of character for her and not knowing how be a friend without being judgemental.  As I was reading this book I kept thinking, “Oh Violet, I have soooooo been there!”

This is not a story with major plot twists and turns. It’s simple. It’s made by the  great dialogue and Violet’s funny inner monologue and in the end, it’s fun to watch how each of these girls grow and change.

Crush Intensity: 4.5/5 Definitely looking forward to more from this author.  This book is so funny. Read it!

Awesome quotes:

Mr. Thompson had not been paying attention.  That’s what we got for choosing a math teacher to advise our literary magazine.  Actually, that had been the intention:  We had all agreed that an advisor from the English department would interfere too much, would look at our LitMag meetings as opportunity to rehash her graduate thesis with us helpless teenagers.  Mr. Thompson’s graduate thesis was on fractals, so there was no danger there.  Plus, he was a guy, so we wanted him there for eye candy.  Well, given his smiley-face tattoo and bright white high-tops, maybe not eyes candy.  Maybe something less delicious than candy, but still edible.  Eye banana.  

And one more…

“Don’t see what you need such a great education for.” Uncle Rick chuckled.  He is very self-amused.  “You father’s got eight years more education than me, and what’d it get him? Nothing much.”

That did it. My parents lost it.  It’s one thing for my aunt and uncle to criticize their car or their cooking or even their daughter, but to criticize the world of academia?  Unacceptable. Like, step off, Uncle Rick.