PUSHING PERFECT - by Michelle Falkolf

PUSHING PERFECT - Michelle Falkoff
Year Published: 2016 - by HarperCollins Publishers.
Genres: Young adult / contemporary / mystery / realistic fiction / suspense / romance
Pages: 352.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball Publishers SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!

Kara has the perfect life. She gets perfect grades. She never messes up. Until now. Because perfection is an illusion, and Kara has been struggling to maintain it for as long as she can remember. Which is why she does something she never thought she’d do. Something risky—and illegal. Before she knows it, Kara’s life veers wildly off its perfect course, and she’s thrown headlong into a world of new friends, wild parties, alluring romance, and dark secrets. She’s forced to confront how far she’s willing to go to be perfect—and in the end, if that’s something she really wants to be.

I'd never heard of this book until it arrived on my doorstep. It's not the kind of book I'd usually go for, but I'm so glad I read it. It wasn't a particularly original story, but it was a very good one. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

It started very badly. The first chapter was just awful. The back story, set-up, and character traits the author was introducing were introduced in a horribly sloppy, disjointed, and unnatural way; it was like she picked the wrong scenes to reveal the information she needed to tell her readers. Which brings me to...
There was too much telling and hardly any showing. At least, it was definitely obvious in the beginning, but I sort of forgot about it as the story progressed and got more exciting. But at the start of the novel it was right in your face and annoying. For example:
"I {Kara} hated when people said that. They had no idea how hard I worked, how much pressure I was under. Sometimes it felt like I was treading water all the time, working as hard as I could to stay afloat."
- pg 21.
I would've liked to have seen what Kara just said in action; show she's struggling, show what she's going through, instead of just telling me.  There were more examples of this kind of telling, but just near the beginning. Thankfully, they seemed to wear off as the story got going.
It improved as it went along. After moving on from the shaking beginning, the story became exciting, gripping, entertaining and absorbing. I was loving every minute and couldn't turn the pages fast enough - it was clever and overwhelmingly suspenseful, and kept me guessing right to the shocking and chilling revelation, which I did not see coming.

The dialogue was solid and witty, and the undercurrent of the story was tragic and deeply serious. The teenagers were involved in realistic and heartbreaking situations, and the author was speaking about issues that need to be spoken about; drugs, blackmail, mental health and teenage peer pressure are very real, and those issues were treated with respect while the author still made her opinion on them subtly clear. The book ended with the characters having learnt  - at least partially - from their mistakes, and with Kara's inner conflicts revealed and resolved. I truly liked and respected that.

The characters were diverse and three-dimensional. I loved seeing how their individual aims and agendas became clear as the story progressed, and I loved the dynamic relationships they had with each other. They were all strikingly vivid, and their character development was brilliant.
To an extent, I could relate to Kara, and I liked watching how her character became more fleshed out as the story continued. She started off very flawed and made some terrible decisions, but she learnt from her mistakes and was a different person by the end of the story. I also really liked how she was focused on her school work and had some great female friendships and wasn't obsessed with boys all the time; which is often the case in books like this. I loved her friendship with Alex, and it was awesome to have a strong female friendship in the story.   
Her parents - her Mum, particularly - was infuriating and horrible, but her character was still well-drawn and vivid. I personally thought Raj - the love interest - was very boring, but I loved Alex's character and eventually Isabel and Becca too.

Some other issues I had with the book: I thought the way things ended with Blocked Sender (the antagonist of the book) were resolved far too easily, and came across unrealistic and a bit of a cop-out on the author's part. I highly doubt everything would have gone quite so smoothly and the enemy would have just accepted things like the teenagers called them.
The book would have been a lot shorter if Kara had just been honest from the beginning, and that was infuriating sometimes. But ultimately I suppose it was all part of her learning journey, and it was dismissible. I really appreciated how the author made Kara realise her mistakes and change, and not have her keep the story going just for the sake of keeping it going. Kara actually did change and learn, and thankfully Falkoff made the right decision.

Despite a rough start, Pushing Perfect was constantly entertaining, gripping, suspenseful, and the kind of book I'll definitely read again. It was a solid novel with some important issues raised - especially ones relating to contemporary teens - and I highly recommend this book if you want a fast-paced, thrilling story whose flawed heroine grows and learns from her mistakes.      


  1. Wow, that's quite a rocky start. Glad to see that it managed to redeem itself somewhat.

    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

    1. It really was :( Yeah, it definitely did! Thankfully!
      Thanks for stopping by, Tanya :)

  2. Good review! Glad it got better for you. The beginning definitely sounds a bit iffy.

    1. Thanks Brooklyn! Yeah, the beginning was very shaky, but thankfully it drastically improved :)

  3. This is a new book to me! I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this lovely review :D

    Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles

    1. Thanks Brittany, I am too! My pleasure, and thank you :)
      Hope you have a lovely rest of the weekend!

  4. Great review Amy! I love that cover <3 Glad you still enjoyed it despite it's bad start!
    Prabhleen @ Booksarelife987

    1. Thanks Prabhleen! Yeah the cover is really cool :) Thanks!