I read ‘A Place Called Perfect’ when it was shortlisted for Waterstones Children’s Book Prize last year and thought it was brilliant – a real breath of fresh air in the MG (‘middle grade‘) releases; don’t get me wrong, there were many I LOVED but this felt very different in style.
I finished the first book already eagerly awaiting the sequel, so when Usborne very kindly sent me a copy of The Trouble With Perfect I couldn’t wait to revisit Violet, Boy and the rest of the citizens of Perfect and find out what was in store for them this time. The cover is once again illustrated by Karl James Mountford and has retained the same bold and quirky print-like style of the first; this suits the books so well, with the eyeball motifs in particular a great touch.
Strange things are happening in the town that used to be Perfect. Things are being stolen…children start going missing too. And everyone is blaming Violet’s best friend, Boy.
Town is in trouble – double trouble – and it’s up to Violet to save it.
I audibly gasped upon reading on the back of the book: “Boy’s not bad – is he?” Surely not?! But what a fantastic twist to start the book with – I was hooked before I’d even opened it!
The book begins with David Shephard’s map of Town (I love, love, love a book with a map) and a fantastic ‘story map’ of book 1. I think a visual recap like this is truly inspired! Helena Duggan does a great job at reminding us of events from book 1 in more detail or at key moments as the story goes on too, but this is such an instant way to bring it all back and begin book 2 feeling like you’ve only just finished the first. It also means anyone inadvertently picking up this one first can still enjoy it and understand it.
Trouble builds on the themes book 1 began – segregation vs unity and fearing differences vs embracing them. With questionable ethics in the press, some persuasive public speaking and fighting against the tide of mob mentality, as an adult reader, it resonates with a familiarity that is almost as sinister as the book’s creepy goings on.
That said, A Place Called Perfect had a lot to live up to, and hand on heart I have to say The Trouble With Perfect didn’t quite manage to knock it off top spot. For me, book one felt just that little bit darker and creepier; Trouble felt even more action-packed, but at times it felt like there was so much going on it was hard to keep up and that there was almost too many ideas, characters and twists to cram in to it.
Nevertheless, it is full of the adventure, mystery and sinister goings on that we’d expect in Perfect/Town. There’s still no sign of the evil Archers, but with robberies, kidnappings and missing eye-plants aplenty, we’re thrust headlong back into a weird and wonderful world of all-seeing eyeballs, secret passages, mutant zombies and chemical clouds that will be a sure-fire hit with younger readers.