Perennials (★★★☆☆)


Mandy Berman   *   Random House   *   June 6, 2017   *   288 Pages

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Despite coming from radically different family backgrounds, Rachel and Fiona are quick to become best friends when they first meet at Camp Marigold over summer break. Even though they see each other three months out of the year, over time, their friendship only grows stronger. Eventually they return to the camp as counselors, both excited to be working together and eager to see how the summer will unfold. Unfortunately, though, things get off to a rocky start and then only get worse. Their summer is full of drama, misunderstanding, loneliness, disappointment, and, eventually, tragedy.

I really enjoyed the first two-thirds of this book. I was ready to give it five stars, but, unfortunately, I ended up hating the end. What starts out as a really solid and lighthearted coming-of-age story about friendship and growing up, ends as an overwrought, borderline unbelievable book with AN INTENSELY IMPORTANT MESSAGE ABOUT WOMEN’S SEXUALITY AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT.

It’s hard to know what author Mandy Berman was hoping to accomplish by concluding the story the way she does, but to me it didn’t make any sense. I especially didn’t appreciate the argument that little girls are perfect and pure before they hit puberty and that it might be better for girls to die young so they don’t have to grow up and possibly deal with, say, awkward sexual encounters or sexual trauma or even a tense relationship with a future mother-in-law.

I mean, no, of course no one wants to experience trauma. But people do all the time, and it’s possible to survive and thrive afterward. Life is about overcoming hardship. We learn from our bad experiences (even the really, really bad ones), pull ourselves together, and move forward. To argue that it might not be the worst thing for a “pure and innocent” little girl to die before she has to deal with a predatory penis just weirds me out. It’s a really bleak stance to take–one of extreme powerlessness and pessimism.

So even though I enjoyed reading most of Perennials, the ending was so bad that, ultimately, I can’t recommend the book.

Advanced Reader Copy provided through Amazon Vine.

11 thoughts

  1. If you want to read a book about two girls who see each other over the summer and who learn about sexuality and their bodies in a really natural way without avoiding the hard stuff, check out This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t usually read graphic novels, but the book definitely looks interesting. Just based on the few pages in Amazon preview, it has my attention. And wow, it’s so popular–and with multiple awards. How did I never hear of this book? I’ll have to check it out from the library. Thanks for the rec. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What an awkward and uncomfortable message! The bad helps us grow and makes us appreciate the good even more. Nobody wants to experience trauma–but I think to avoid anything bad at all is to avoid living.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree. It was a very strange–and flat out incorrect!–message. No one sets out to suffer in life, sure, but certainly suffering doesn’t kill us. It’s unpleasant, but it also makes us stronger and, like you said, more appreciative of the good stuff. But yeah, the ending definitely disappointed!

      Liked by 1 person

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