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Future Perfect

Future Perfect

4.0 3
by Jen Larsen

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Jen Larsen, author of the critically acclaimed memoir Stranger Here and a subject of the Oprah Winfrey Network TV show In Deep Shift with Jonas Elrod, tells a liberating story of hard-won self-acceptance—a tale of one girl, who knows that weight is just a number, and that no one is completely perfect.

This is a distinct, complex debut from a


Jen Larsen, author of the critically acclaimed memoir Stranger Here and a subject of the Oprah Winfrey Network TV show In Deep Shift with Jonas Elrod, tells a liberating story of hard-won self-acceptance—a tale of one girl, who knows that weight is just a number, and that no one is completely perfect.

This is a distinct, complex debut from a new voice in YA with an unforgettable main character whose doubts and insecurities will resonate with readers, and shed light on the dangers of taking on others' expectations instead of your own.

Underscored by a fierce intelligence and a dry, disarming wit, Future Perfect will satisfy fans of such authors as Maureen Johnson.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Larsen’s 2013 adult memoir, Stranger Here, detailed her own experience with having weight-loss surgery; in her first book for teens, a high school student must decide whether she will do the same. Ashley is beautiful and popular, has a loving boyfriend, and is valedictorian of the best high school around. But Ashley is also fat—something that doesn’t bother her at all, but that her grandmother believes stands in the way of a successful future. Each birthday, Ashley is wracked with anxiety as she awaits her grandmother’s inevitable present: a homemade coupon for something Ashley desperately wants (a shopping spree, a trip to Paris) in exchange for losing weight. On Ashley’s 17th birthday, her grandmother offers to pay for Ashley’s Harvard education if she will undergo weight-loss surgery. A drawn-out lead-up to Ashley’s grandmother’s yearly wager and digressions about Ashley’s friends cause the plot to drag, but when Larsen focuses on Ashley’s struggle to make her decision regarding surgery, as well as her pride in her natural shape, the novel is a moving, empowering read. Ages 13–up. Agent: Cheryl Pientka, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Oct.)
“Ashley’s fight to discover what she truly wants, independent of the expectations of others, is an important one that will speak to many.”
NPR Books
“A gorgeous, fiercely moving debut.”
VOYA, December 2015 (Vol. 38, No. 5) - Bonnie Kunzel
The issue in this teen work of realistic fiction is body image, specifically bright, overachieving, class valedictorian Ashley’s weight. While she has come to terms with her size 18 to 20 body, her grandmother has not. She has been trying to bribe her granddaughter since she turned thirteen to do something about it. Each birthday, Ashley received a small white card with an escalating bribe—good for one shopping trip every ten pounds on her thirteenth; fifty pounds for a trip to Disneyland on her fourteenth; seventy-five pounds for a trip to Paris on her fifteenth; eighteen pounds for a new car on the sixteenth. She rejects all of those offers, but when she turns seventeen, her grandmother ups the stakes: weight-loss surgery in exchange for four years of tuition. Since Ashley has her sights set on Harvard, this is an offer that is difficult to turn down, even though she and her friends view the suggested surgery as mutilation and are totally opposed to the idea. Her grandmother calls in the big guns, including the Harvard interviewer and the administration at her private school. The offer also makes the rounds among her classmates, leaving Ashley to face peer pressure and cutting comments on top of everything else, which includes parental abandonment issues, in her case by her Latina mother; in one friend’s, the benign neglect of wealthy parents; the other a transgender teen who is rescued from her parents by Ashley’s grandmother. The book includes many interior musings and much teenage angst before Ashley finally takes a stand, in this first young adult novel by an author who is knowledgeable about these issues, having had weight loss surgery herself. Reviewer: Bonnie Kunzel; Ages 15 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
A high school senior strives to realize her dream of attending Harvard despite financial limitations and her dysfunctional family. Ashley Maria Perkins has plenty going for her—she's the valedictorian at her academically challenging private high school, class president, and former captain of the volleyball team. She holds down a job, rescues stray dogs, and aspires to be a doctor. She's also fat and of mixed ethnicity: her emotionally unavailable, ineffectual father is Caucasian, her absent mother's Latina, from Colombia. Larsen's engrossing first-person narrative reveals these details quickly, then layers on incidents and emotions to build an immersive experience as Ashley struggles to write her college application essay and to stand strong in the face of her paternal grandmother's coercive manipulation. Relationship complications with friends (one of whom is transgender and has her own set of issues, which are sensitively explored), a current boyfriend, a longtime crush, and a jealous classmate add to the intensity, which builds to an expected but nonetheless powerful confrontation. The book is not perfect—more time is spent on conversation and internal rumination than action, the plot can feel overstuffed, and the drama is occasionally over-the-top—but the abundant angst will resonate with many teens. An absorbing look at the cultural obsession with women's weight and how much energy and effort it takes to live an authentic life on one's own terms. (Fiction. 14-18)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Jen Larsen is the author of the widely acclaimed adult memoir Stranger Here: How Weight-Loss Surgery Transformed My Body and Messed with My Head, which chronicles her own real-life journey with weight-loss surgery. This is her first work of fiction.

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Future Perfect 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Despite a few flaws, overall this book is fantastic! Five out of five stars. Future Perfect provides not only an interesting, unique story with well rounded and downright cool characters, but it brings to light many important issues facing society today, including body shaming, sexism, homophobia/transphobia, and racism. While occasionally Larsen's highlight of these issues takes away from the story itself, I believe that their inclusion is more important than a smooth or uninterrupted read. Thought provoking stories such as this one are becoming more and more important, especially considering society's emerging indifference to a need for change. I strongly believe that this book will leave readers with something to ponder for years to come!
BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars (liked it a lot) Posted on: Brandi Breathes Books Blog Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC (advanced review copy) for free. I am not paid for this review, and my opinions in this review are mine, and are not effected by the book being free. I wanted to read Future Perfect because the premise. Her grandmother offers big incentives to try to get Ashley to lose weight, and a college ride, this year's offer, is extremely hard to pass up. But Ashley is okay with how she looks, she knows she is bigger than the average person, but she is smart, funny, and motivated, and she wants that to be enough. I am a larger person, and I do not have near the confidence and acceptance of my body as Ashley does. And I think that is a beautiful message-- weight just being a number, and really accepting that what makes you who you are is on the inside, your personality, and your drive in life, and she doesn't want to let what is on the outside, her size 20 to define her. But she faces pressure from all sides, her friends, teachers, her grandma to accept this. She understands they are just trying to help, but that is a hard thing when no one seems to be able to just let it go, and love her for who she is, not what she looks like. I liked how she was strong, and put on her brave face. Ashley surrounded herself with her friends, and family, and she is able to stay pretty confident about who she is. She is a people pleaser when it comes to her grandmother, and it turns out that she feels obligation to her because of how much she has done for her dad, her and her brothers. I appreciate that at one point, she tried to see it from her grandma's point of view as well as how it might change her health and future. But she realized a lot about herself, and that it is okay for her to stand up for it. The premise played out well, and I liked how the romance wasn't the main thing. She does have a boyfriend, and I appreciate that he didn't seem to care about her size, rather who she is and her personality. Rather, her friendships and family as well as her college dreams and decision about her birthday proposition. While it dealt with some heavy issues, it didn't get bogged down. It was all about the characters and their development. The ending was well done, and I liked the way Ashley made decisions for her best future. Bottom Line: Good one on body image.
DownrightDystopian More than 1 year ago
Future Perfect was unlike anything I had ever read before. The story follows a girl named Ashley who is considered overweight, though that doesn't define her. She is valedictorian at her school and is on track to go to Harvard, so she has a lot going for her. She also has a boyfriend named Hector and the two of them are very cute together. However, every year on her birthday, Ashley's grandmother offers her a huge present in return for her losing some weight. One year she was even offered a car. This year, she is told that she could get full tuition to Harvard for four years (which she is in dire need of) if she gets weight loss surgery. News of this spreads around the school and the book is basically her deciding if she should do it or not. I really liked Ashley as a character. I think my favorite thing was that Ashley was very smart and realized that she was more than what she looked like, so I found her to be a very awesome person because of that. I liked her friends too; they were pretty sweet. I also really liked Hector. That being said, I absolutely hated her grandmother. It's cruel to bribe people to lose weight like that and it's just such a turn away because I'd never want someone in my life who acted like that. In the end, I found this book to be pretty enjoyable. I'm excited to read more by Jen in the future!