Monday 8 March 2021

Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales

Everyone in school knows about Locker 89. If you slip a letter in outlining your relationship woes, along with a fiver, an anonymous source will email you with the best advice you've ever gotten.

Darcy Phillips, a quiet, sweet junior, is safe in the knowledge no one knows she's the genius behind locker 89. Until Brougham, a senior, catches her.

The deal Brougham offers is tempting: in exchange for his silence--and a generous coach's fee to sweeten the deal--Darcy can become Brougham's personal dating coach to help him get his ex-girlfriend back.

And as for Darcy, well, she has a fairly good reason to want to keep her anonymity. Because she has another secret. Not too long ago, she abused locker 89 to sabotage the budding romance of her best friend, Brooke. Brooke, who Darcy's been in love with for a year now.

Yeah. Brooke can't find out about that. No matter what.

Known only as “Locker 89”, Darcy has been providing advice to anyone in her school who asks for it, through an anonymous dead drop and email. This has worked very well for her for more than two years, until a new student waits by the locker, hoping to pay for her services in person. Though Brougham effectively blackmails her, Darcy agrees and thus begins a strange partnership to get him back his girlfriend.

I loved the premise of this: agony aunt-style advice, relationships issues, secret loves, and bi rep. I was especially impressed with the psychological take on how Darcy gives advice; she researched and learned about different attachment styles, the needs and wants for different relationships and followed other advice gurus online. Honestly, she knew her stuff!

The story focuses on two main themes: Locker 89 and the advice service, and sexuality, especially as a teenager. The advice, both wanted and unwarranted, flowed throughout and Darcy, although she knew her stuff, did mess up when it involved her friends, especially her best friend Brooke. As for the sexuality, I was thoroughly impressed with the bi rep. I have a few friends and people I follow online that identity as bisexual and I recognised some of the issues that Darcy faced with her sexuality: feeling like she didn’t quite fit in a queer space, like she’s not “queer enough”. It was very respectively written, I think – although apart from appreciating the diversity and the issues it discussed, as a cis-woman, I don’t feel I can have a proper opinion, so I’ll just say I really liked it, both as a storyline and portrayed through Darcy’s character.

Speaking of: Darcy was all kinds of adorable. And Brougham was her opposite; closed where she was open, a little stilted where Darcy was emotional. I liked them together, though, they had very good banter and played off each other really well. By the end, I could see how they complemented and bought out the best in each other.

All in all, the kind of love/coming of age story that the genre needs and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.