Perfect Ruin

Perfect Ruin - Lauren DeStefano

"Perfect Ruin" reminds me of post-apocalyptic/alternative reality movies, like the one with Justin Timberlake about people having a clock inside their arm that counts down how many days they have left. Just like these movies, the book offers a premise that sounds intriguing enough, leaving room for potential growth. Once I started reading it, the story was much the same way - interesting enough, building up the suspense to keep me reading and interested. But the closer I got to the end, the more I realized that perhaps that this is the very fault of the book: it comes across as interesting but nothing all too special, in some places failing to bring a satisfactory answer that would probably have been more appropriate given the circumstances. In short, it lacked that spark, that something-else quality.

I really enjoyed Morgan's character, partially because of how much I could relate to her. DeStefano did a great job, I think, in writing a character that was well-balanced, showing bravery and persistence as well as her natural faults and fears. It helped keep the story going, especially knowing her thoughts and emotions. This was true for most of the other characters I would say, and perhaps this makes "Perfect Ruin" one of the more balanced and 'realistic' books in terms of the cast out of all the YA novels I've read so far.

Where the book falters however is on premise and details, namely world building. The concept of the floating Internment is introduced in the first chapter and is then jumped around for the remainder of the book. There are no details about how this happened exactly or why, and there isn't any insight in terms of new knowledge that could appear to the characters. As a result they're still in the dark, but at least they are going along with it and fighting against the system, unlike the slightly confused reader who's trying to keep track of everything. There are occasional bursts of details, like when Morgan recollects that in the past people with lighter hair and eye colours belonged to royalty, or how there used to be castles. These information 'leaks' occur sporadically and are like lose threads that simply accumulated. I wish there was more information on why tennis was called "plum", or what exactly "soapberries" were, and just how the knowledge of common English words like "alcohol" or architecture was lost. I did like the stories from the History of Internment, especially the one about the twin girls. It did a good job in showing the mentality of the new world, whether intentionally or without realizing it. Otherwise, many of the details of Internment were standard elements of a utopian-based society, such as pairing up couples, eliminating people who are "defective", and having a set age for when people must die. There wasn't an explanation for why there was a king, which was one of the details that I was really interested about throughout the entire novel.

One of my favourite details was the use of the quotes from the essay of Daphne Leander. They did a good job in setting the overall tone for the story and helping maintain the consistency throughout. As mentioned before, the plot itself is quite good, and does enough to maintain suspense and interest, but it is unanswered questions, like the strange and giddy behavior of Pen, especially in the scene where she's talking about her drawing, that take their toll over time as they add up. The ending also doesn't give much insight as to where the story might go, probably being the only neutral cliffhanger I've seen in a series, especially in the first book.

I look forward to seeing where the rest of the series will go. I enjoyed the sensory experience of the train most of all, and the atmosphere of darkness, isolation, and stars that entranced me. I hope more of the mythology of Internment and the sky god will be explored, and that the next part of the series will have slightly more of a kick to it. There was something missing in this one. Perhaps it's the small but still noticeable holes in details. Many probably won't be satisfied with the slow and steady pacing of the book, but for me that was another plus. It read like a fairytale, without rushing on an adrenaline wave the way "The Hunger Games" and similar books were. It was an interesting, pleasant, and somewhat strange read that I'm not quite sure what to think of.