Piper Perish inhales air and exhales art. The sooner she and her best friends can get out of Houston and into art school in New York City, the better. It’s been Piper’s dream her whole life, and now that senior year is halfway over, she’s never felt more ready. But in the final months before graduation, things are weird with her friends and stressful with three different guys, and Piper’s sister’s tyrannical mental state seems to thwart every attempt at happiness for the close-knit Perish family. Piper’s art just might be enough to get her out. But is she brave enough to seize that power, even if it means giving up what she’s always known? Debut author Kayla Cagan breathes new life into fiction in this ridiculously compelling, utterly authentic work featuring interior art from Rookie magazine illustrator Maria Ines Gul. Piper will have readers asking big questions along with her. What is love? What is friendship? What is family? What is home? And who is a person when she’s missing any one of these things?
Contemporary / YA / LGBTQIA+
Publication Date: March 7th, 2017
Get a copy here!
Quick Reasons: realistic and true-to-life; I LOVE how open-ended the ending is; an interesting glimpse into family dynamics and sibling rivalries; a focus on opportunity, self-preservation, and personal sacrifice; Piper has an entertaining, strong voice, but she comes off a bit unreliable at times
Huge thanks to Kayla Cagan, Chronicle Books Publishing, and Netgalley for granting me free early access to an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.
The first thing you need to know about this book: it’s written in diary form. Therefore, the only perspective we get is Piper’s–and while I adored how strong and unique her voice is throughout this novel, I also struggled a bit with seeing the world through her eyes. Don’t get me wrong–single perspective reads are not in any way a bad thing! However, Piper’s perspective is (as to be expected, with diary entries) very biased. A couple of times, I found myself wondering if she was more unreliable than honest. You know that saying, “there’s three sides to every story. His, hers, and the truth.” ? I felt it applied to a lot of this book, when perhaps it shouldn’t have.
I really enjoyed the different themes that Kayla Cagan explored, though! One of the biggest focuses, sibling rivalry, was a new one for me to encounter in YA, and it was beautifully done. Growing up with a TON of half-siblings and one younger brother, I know just how volatile and dramatic such relationships can be. They are, at times, downright caustic. When you add in pregnancy and the additional hormones that come with it, it’s pretty easy to believe in Marli’s terrifying unpredictability.
In fact, the entire family dynamic was never once sugar-coated or glossed over. Kayla Cagan did an awesome job of asking the right questions, and then employing the answers in ways that shifted the plot and changed my perspective as a reader. Both parents are fully present and realistically flawed, acting and reacting in predictable AND surprising ways. After all, who hasn’t done or said something out of character when stressed? Unlike a lot of YA reads with missing or “side-note” parents, I felt as if I got to know Piper’s mom and dad as fully as I did Piper and Marli. I felt as if all these characters came to life for me, honestly–and that’s a hard thing to do in writing, to make each character feel individualized and equally vibrant.
In the end, this was an entertaining and thought-provoking read. There are tons of moments filled with teen angst, family drama, and abstract philosophies or ideas. It is, at times, difficult to put yourself in Piper’s shoes and understand where she’s coming from. Marli is, throughout, downright terrifying–and, at times, emotionally abusive. Still, each character feels fleshed out and unique, and the ending is open-ended enough to let readers continue the story on their own, if they want. I recommend this to lovers of contemporary fiction, “differing” family dynamics, and the exploration of abstract ideas/human nature. This was an interesting read; I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the next project Kayla Cagan tackles.