We Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel Kaplan

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

We Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel KaplanWe Are the Perfect Girl by Ariel Kaplan
Length: 10 hrs, 46 mins
Published by Listening Library on May 21, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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She’s the beauty, I’m the bold one–together, we are the perfect girl…

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.

Somehow I hadn’t heard pretty much anything about this book, but I did end somehow end up with both an egalley and a review audiobook. Still, I had the feeling this would be good because Dahlia loved it, and she knows what’s up. We Are the Perfect Girl is a book that builds from a beginning where you think you know what’s going to happen, which turns out to be right and wrong in the best ways. It’s a book I haven’t stopped thinking about since I finished it a week ago, which, let me tell you, is notable.

It wasn’t instalove with We Are the Perfect Girl. I mean, I liked it from the start, but I just wasn’t totally sure if I would like where it was going. Aphra’s got a strong, judgmental, highly relatable personality, but her relationship with her best friend Bethany was a mess and a half. Adding in the often problematic Cyrano romance elements seemed like it could make this book take some unpleasant turns. Thankfully, that’s absolutely not what happens. Well, it is, but in the good way. It reminds me somewhat of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in the way that it unpacks all the problematic elements and investigates the mental health issues that underlie them.

We Are the Perfect Girl has romance, but it’s less of a romance than I was expecting. For once, that was totally a good thing. Cyrano de Bergerac is kinda fucked up, and I love the way that Ariel Kaplan focused in not on Aphra and Greg but on the friendship between Aphra and Bethany, because, to come up with a plan like this one, clearly all is not right in the state of Denmark.

Aphra and Bethany have been friends since childhood, because bombastic, outspoken Aphra defended the incredibly shy Bethany. Through the years, though, their relationship has shifted into something slightly unhealthy. Bethany leans on Aphra heavily, too scared to talk to others, and Bethany’s jealous of her friends beauty and unable to understand her shyness. The disconnect between the two is apparent when Aphra keeps asking why Bethany doesn’t just talk, exactly the wrong thing to say to a person who’s shy of talking. But outgoing Bethany can’t fathom why Bethany makes everything so difficult on herself when all she’d need to do is talk just a little to win everyone over with her gorgeousness.

Unlike the original story, Aphra and Bethany don’t team up to win Greg for Bethany. She just asks Aphra for help with him, and Aphra agrees, despite having a crush on him herself. Meanwhile, Aphra kinda accidentally starts talking to him online, in the guise of her mobile app that kinda totally failed, and then kinda accidentally lets him believe he’s talking to Bethany. This is another reason the start of the book made me nervous, because she made so many bad, unhealthy choices. They do feel true to Bethany, though, and Kaplan resolves things really well, which essentially means that most of those bad choices explode in her face and she has to learn about herself and deal with the fallout.

What We Are the Perfect Girl ends up unpacking is Aphra’s incredibly low self-esteem, something even she didn’t realize was a thing because of how confident she is socially. Because she’s loud and social, she appears confident, but she’s not at all. What you see on the surface isn’t all of a person. Aphra’s confident interacting with others, sure, but she believes down to her bones that no one will ever love her romantically because she’s not beautiful in a traditional way.

Up to this point, I’ve never read a book that focused so strongly on body dysmorphia, and that’s why this book hit me so hard. I knew that I had some dysmorphia issues, but it wasn’t until I was nodding along to everything she said to her therapist who then told her how severe her case was that I realized exactly how bad it was. Obviously it’s not great to realize that, but it’s always better to be armed. Anyway, let’s just say that it was all super relatable and the representation felt completely accurate to me. Also, I thought the subplot of Aphra’s relationship with her sister, who has had a nose job to “fix” her large nose that used to look just like Aphra’s, was done so, so well. And the fact that it all ties in to the way she reacted to her project going wrong because perfection is the only way to maybe fool people into liking you? *kisses fingers and also cries bc UGH I HAVE BEEN THERE*

Aphra’s in therapy throughout the entire novel. Her parents sent her because of her harsh reaction to her sister’s plastic surgery. What I like is that you get to see the breakthrough happen and also that you know how long it took for her to get there, because Aphra wasn’t ready or maybe able to open up until that point. Some people expect therapy to take immediate affect, and I think it’s really important that this book is showing that it truly is a process, one that’s often very slow.

I loved this book. It’s witty, incisive, painful, and makes something new and original out of Cyrano, a romantic set up which gets done a lot. I’d recommend particularly to fans of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or people who enjoyed Winner Take All. Basically, if you like strong, powerful, flawed women learning about their mental health, this is for you.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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