We Are the Perfect Girl
We Are the Perfect Girl
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Annotation: A contemporary retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac in which two teenage girls conspire to win over their mutual crush, with unintended consequences.
Catalog Number: #184430
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
No other formats available
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 374 pages
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: 0-525-64710-4
ISBN 13: 978-0-525-64710-2
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2019942294
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Publishers Weekly
In a clever retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, Kaplan (We Regret to Inform You) introduces best friends with opposing personalities who face challenges of the heart. If combined, high school junior Bethany-s beauty and Aphra-s smarts and gift of gab would make the -perfect girl.- Separately, though, their self-worth suffers. Bethany gets tongue-tied around everyone except Aphra; Aphra is all too aware of what she perceives as her oversize nose. Problems begin when Bethany sets her sights on attracting handsome Greg, Aphra-s longtime crush. Putting aside her jealousy to be a good friend, Aphra helps get the two together. When an advice app that Aphra designed malfunctions, she answers teens- questions herself instead of letting the app generate answers. And when Greg sends in questions, mistaking Aphra for his girlfriend, she goes along with it, dazzling him with her wit and advice. After their conversations grow too intimate, though, disaster strikes. Told from Aphra-s point of view, this romance offers equal amounts amusement and relatable teen challenges, among them sibling resentment, self-esteem, and codependency, shown through realistically flawed characters. Ages 12-up. Agent: Hannah Bowman, Liza Dawson Associates. (May)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Kaplan (We Regret to Inform You, 2018, etc.) returns with another modern retelling of a classic as three teens grapple with love à la Cyrano de Bergerac.Ever since they were 8-years-old, Aphra, born with bravado and a mouth that won't quit, has always looked out for her meek BFF, Bethany, who rarely opens up in public. It's clear, though, that Bethany likes hot, athletic, all-around nice guy Greg. It's also clear to Aphra that her large nose can't compete with Bethany's gorgeous body, and for once, she keeps her mouth shut about also liking Greg. In Aphra's snarky yet thought-provoking first-person narrative, an advice app she creates for her computer science class further complicates her dilemma when the AI technology doesn't work as planned. Posing as the computer, the teen finds herself doling out advice to fellow students, especially Greg. But when Greg incorrectly believes Bethany is behind the app, Aphra decides that if she can't be Greg's girlfriend, she'll help Bethany attain this coveted position. More than a clever technological twist on the original, Kaplan's version raises awareness of female body image: Aphra's discovery about the subjectivity of beauty is at once painful and heartfelt. Greek, Latin, Russian, and other literary references and wordplay will engage sophisticated readers. Aphra and Bethany are white, Greg is Latinx, and there is additional ethnic diversity in secondary characters.A smart and honest look at female beauty, with plenty of panache to boot. (Fiction. 14-18)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* For someone who has traditionally done his best work behind the scenes, Cyrano de Bergerac is having quite a moment in the spotlight.Until recently, the most notable contemporary retelling of the 1897 play, in which an unattractive but witty man woos the love of his life on behalf of his handsome but shy friend, was Roxanne, the rom-com starring Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, and a prosthetic nose. In the last few years, however, more than a few Cyrano updates have sprung up, and they're geared for teens. It's a concept that doesn't always work the age of catfishing, a Cyrano-style romance can be a little shaky on consent (see Netflix's Sierra Burgess Is a Loser). It works better when the story acknowledges that it's dark and stays there, as in Kat Spears' gritty Sway (2014). And it works when the narrative barely considers a romance at all.Such is the case with Kaplan's latest iteration of the Cyrano story, which is narrated by Aphra Brown, who has a smart mouth, a big nose, and a best friend she'd die for. To the casual observer, Bethany is Aphra's opposite: painfully shy where Aphra is vibrant and funny, and a stunning classic beauty where Aphra is, as some might put it, strong-featured. Bethany is head over heels for Greg D'Agostino, an admittedly great guy hra once had a crush on him herself. But Bethany, of course, is too shy to ever do anything about it.This succeeds where other Cyrano narratives have failed, first, because Aphra doesn't intend to start catfishing Greg; when a class project goes horribly wrong, she pretends to be an advice-giving AI, and after he lets slip a few personal details, she realizes that the person who's been signing in for a few late-night chats is Greg. He figures out that the class-project AI is a real person fast enough, but when he gets the mistaken impression that the girl behind the curtain is Bethany and asks her out IRL, Aphra, unwilling to stand in the way of Bethany's happiness and not trusting that Greg would be thrilled to know it was her and not her beautiful friend, doesn't say a word. But Bethany, still shy, struggles to connect with Greg and is desperate for Aphra's help. And Aphra's keeping too many secrets.With a rising cultural fascination with the concept of catfishing (MTV, anyone?), perhaps it's not so surprising that the Cyrano story is getting a reboot. But We Are the Perfect Girl goes beyond the average reimagining by diving thoughtfully into what makes someone catfish in the first place.This is a funny book: Aphra has a dry, approachable wit, and Kaplan nails situational comedic timing. But it's important to note here that the humor is never at Aphra's expense. Unlike Steve Martin, Aphra doesn't need a comically gigantic fake nose. Aphra is a girl, and the world is hard enough on her d her appearance lready. Aphra and her sister, Delia, both inherited the same nose; it's considered "aristocratic" on their father, but Delia got herself a nose job the second she turned 18, and Aphra hasn't spoken to her since. Though she tries not to let it bother her, Aphra can't help but feel like her appearance is something she has to overcome and like love is something she has to earn because of it. She hides, first behind her AI and then behind Bethany's beauty Bethany herself hides behind Aphra's personality cause she's afraid that, on her own, she won't measure up.It's a key plot point in the original Cyrano de Bergerac: when Cyrano's on his deathbed, Roxane does come to the conclusion that she loves Cyrano for his wit and panache, despite how he looks. But for Aphra, a love like that wouldn't be enough. Though it takes her a long time to admit it, she finally comes to the conclusion that she wants to be loved because of everything she is, not in spite of parts of herself, which means accepting a vulnerability that internet anonymity would never allow her.There is much to appreciate about this book: its cleverness, its humor, that it embraces and normalizes therapy, that it places familial love and friendship on a level with romantic love. But, perhaps best of all, it offers teens, especially those struggling to accept and love themselves, a picture of a girl who makes mistakes and fights to begin again.
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 6-8
Lexile: HL650L
 
Sometimes, when I'm lying in my bed at night, staring up at the darkened ceiling, I think that the greatest problem in the English-speaking world is that we don't understand love.
 
It's a lack of vocabulary, that's what I've decided. We have one word: love. And we expect it to mean everything, only it's clunky and imprecise and leads to misunderstandings and anger and frustration and tears.
 
The ancient Greeks, I think, had a better system: multiple love words, a love word for every possible occasion. If you love your friend, you've got philia. If you love your mom, you've got storge. If you love the sexy, sexy guy who sits across from you in biology, you have eros. And if you feel some great, cosmic, unconditional love for God or the Universe or your Fellow Man, you have agape.
 
There are others, actually, but those are the mains. So while in English we may have beautiful sentiments like "Love is love," clearly eros is not storge, unless you are Oedipus, and then you have a problem. Anyway, the specificity of the Greek system has always appealed to me.
 
I guess philia is probably my favorite. I don't exactly understand agape, and eros is not something I ever expect to experience myself. But philia is love for the masses. Everyone has a friend. At least, I hope they do.
 
My greatest source of philia is Bethany Newman, who has been my best friend since we were eight. I have other friends, of course, but Bethany is special because she looks at me and sees me exactly as I am. I really philia her for that.
 
I was philia-ing her a little less this morning, though, when I woke up to find her sitting on my kneecaps. She was smiling at me with a smile that was too wide to look at first thing upon waking. It was more like a midafternoon smile. An "I've already had two cups of coffee" smile.
 
"Ow," I said.
 
"The pool opens today," she replied. She bounced a little. "Did you forget?"
 
I kind of had, being asleep and all. Our town had splurged and installed a heating system in one of our outdoor pools, which meant it opened on the first of May instead of over Memorial Day like the rest of the pools in the area. I remembered that we'd talked about going last night, but I didn't remember agreeing to wake up at the crack of dawn for it.
 
"My knees don't bend that way," I said, shoving her off. "Why are you waking me up to tell me about the pool?"
 
"We were supposed to go shopping!" she said. "Half an hour ago! It's 11:30."
 
"It is not," I said, but it did seem kind of bright out. I'd set my alarm for ten. Hadn't I? I was pretty sure I had. I felt around on the bedside table for my glasses and then for my phone.
 
"Where's my phone?"
 
 "I have no idea. Come on, Aphra, get up."
 
I sat up slowly. It wasn't regular shopping Bethany wanted to do; it was bathing suit shopping, which is the worst kind of shopping. Bright lights. Spandex. Those hygienic liners that don't make me feel any better about trying on a suit fifty other people have already tried on, even with underwear.
 
I had agreed to go, though, because Bethany came to me last week with a Plan, and Bethany so seldom has Plans that I felt like I had to go along with it.
 
The Plan was agreed upon the night of junior prom. Bethany and I went together with a bunch of other girls, and while we were there, we saw Greg D'Agostino with a bunch of his friends from the swim team. He was in a tux, and he looked, possibly, even hotter than usual.
 
Bethany really wanted to ask him to dance and spent nearly the whole night trying to work up the nerve. Around 10:30, she decided to walk by him during a slow song and hope he'd take the hint.
 
Except by then, he'd already left.
 
So now we had a plan to throw Bethany's bikini-clad body in front of Greg D'Agostino until he magically notices her, falls in love (technically, in eros, but Bethany doesn't appreciate the Greek system like I do), and then . . . I'm not really sure what happens after that. I guess maybe he'll ask her out? And then they'll go out. And then Bethany will, with any luck, be able to speak more than four words to him.
 
This seems a little unlikely to me, but I haven't said anything because I'm sure Bethany already knows that.
 
I pried myself out of bed, jammed my contacts into my eyes--I swear, this is not vanity, glasses just annoy me--put on some clothes, and went off in search of my phone, which was in the hands of my little brother, who was using it to play Minecraft. Walnut the cat was curled up on his lap while Kit used him as a furry lap desk.
 
"Why are you on my phone?" I asked, pointing at the laptop he'd abandoned on the coffee table.
Without looking up, he said, "I hit my time limit."
 
There are parental controls on the family computer that cut Kit off after an hour so he doesn't rot his little brain. "So do something else," I said. "How did you get my phone?"
 
"It was by your bed."
 
"You can't just steal it while I'm sleeping!" "You weren't using it."
 
"Did my alarm go off?"
 
"Oh." He looked up. "I didn't know what that was. I turned it off." He switched off his game and handed the phone to me, looking contrite, because Bethany and I row on the crew team and he knows that we usually have regattas on Saturday mornings. "Sorry. Did I make you late for your boat race?"
 
"I'm not mad," I said, patting his head. Kit is only nine, and I think he has the softest hair in the whole world, like the down on a baby duck. Someday he probably won't want me to pat his head anymore, so I'm getting my Kit-hair fix now, while I still can. Plus, he's the only sibling I have that I'm on speaking terms with, and I'm not willing to let a hijacked cell phone get in the way of that. "We didn't race today," I said. "Where's Mom and Dad?"
 
"Dad's at the store. Mom's asleep."
 
Both of my parents are professors at George Mason: Mom teaches English, Dad teaches medieval history, and Mom has an evening class on Fridays and likes to sleep in on Saturday mornings. This was a little late, though, even for her.
 
"You should wake her up," I said. "I'm leaving with Bethany." "Can I go with you?"
 
"You'll be super bored," I said. "We're going shopping." "For candy?" he asked hopefully.
 
"Could we do candy?" I asked Bethany. "That actually does sound better."
 
"No candy," Bethany said. "Suits." She leaned down and we gave him the Kit Kiss, which we've been doing since he was a baby, where I kiss one cheek and Bethany kisses the other. Probably someday he won't let us do that anymore, either. "We're going to the pool later, if you want to come."
 
"Can I play on your phone there?" "No," I said. "But you can swim." He made a face.
 
"I'll buy you a Fudgsicle," I said. He made another face.
 
"I'll let you eat half my cookie-wich, too," I offered.
 
"If you let me eat the whole thing, I promise not to steal your phone again."
 
"Sorry," I said. "I don't negotiate with terrorists." "You're mean."
 
I ruffled his hair again, saying, "The meanest."

Excerpted from We Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel Kaplan
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

This witty, warm-hearted retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac is a love letter to female friendship. Perfect for Stephanie Perkins fans, and anyone who's ever thought of trying on a new identity to impress a guy.

Aphra Brown is bold and outgoing. Her best friend, Bethany, is achingly beautiful. Individually, they could both do a little better in the self-esteem department, but together? Together, they have what it takes to win over Greg D'Agostino, a proverbial "ten," who happens to be fluent in six languages--seven if you count the language of smoldering gazes . . .
     What begins as an honest mistake turns into an elaborate deception, wherein Bethany goes on dates with Greg while Aphra coaches her on what to say, and texts him in the guise of Bethany, trying and failing, all the while, to tamp down her own hopeless crush. It's only a matter of time before things come crashing down. The question is: What will happen when Greg finds out? And can Aphra and Bethany's friendship survive the fallout?
     From the author of We Regret to Inform You comes a witty, warm-hearted exploration of love in all its forms, and a cris-de-coeur for self-acceptance when the pressure to be perfect is overwhelming.

"There is much to appreciate about this book: its cleverness, its humor, that it embraces and normalizes therapy, that it places familial love and friendship on a level with romantic love. But, perhaps best of all, it offers teens, especially those struggling to accept and love themselves, a picture of a girl who makes mistakes and fights to begin again." --Booklist, starred review

"At once painful and heartfelt . . . a smart and honest look at female beauty, with plenty of panache to boot." --Kirkus, starred review


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