Perfect on Paper is a perfect queer YA romance. Darcy Phillips is a bisexual teen who secretly receives relationship questions via an unused school locker and dispenses advice by email. Hopelessly in love with her lesbian best friend, she's great at giving advice and terrible at managing her own relationships. When she's caught in the act of opening the locker by Alexander Brougham (who goes by his last name), she agrees to help him get his ex-girlfriend back. (PS Brougham is Australian like the author.)
They initially get along terribly, a meet-disaster that calls back to Pride and Prejudice, and the relationship advice emails are reminiscent of newspaper columns and the TV series Sex Education. Darcy watches and reads a lot of relationship experts, so her advice works 95% of the time. You know, until she has to look objectively at her own problems. Her trans older sister sees through her crap and I loved their relationship, definitely the healthiest one in Darcy's life.
I really enjoyed Sophie Gonzales' last book, Only Mostly Devastated, but I loved Perfect on Paper even more than I expected. She's taken some classic tropes and a couple of familiar premises and blended them together with all the queerness I could hope for. Yes, the bisexual female protagonist does end up with a cis boy. And that doesn't make her less queer, dammit.
Darcy is messy and makes some irresponsible choices. She hurts her best friend twice and is hurt by that friend as well. Gonzales excels at writing characters who make mistakes--not just the accidental kind--and still come across as relatable and sympathetic. A book in which you can yell at the main character several times and still want their HEA? Really something.
Audio Notes: The narrator, Barrie Kreinik, is prolific so I'd listened to another book by her just a week or so before this one. I ended up not enjoying that book, but I loved this one. That tells me only one thing: this narrator doesn't magically save boring material. She is, however, a capable narrator. As mentioned above, this protagonist is messy but I still rooted for her. A narrator has to be able to convey that internal struggle in single POV and make it compelling and Kreinik is successful here.
Happy to recommend this in whichever format you like best!
Content Warnings: mentions of racism and homophobia, several references to biphobia (internalized and otherwise), divorced parents, Broughan's wealthy parents are in a terrible relationship with cheating, fighting etc., and he has an unstable home environment, lying, public shaming and suspension from school
I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher for review. (I also received an ebook review copy.)