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Perfect Little World: A Novel Hardcover – January 24, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Eighteen-year-old Izzy Poole's mother died when she was young, and her father drowned his grief in alcohol. Just before her high school graduation, she learns she is pregnant by her emotionally unstable art teacher. Confronted with the prospect of raising her baby alone, Izzy joins a research study that promises support for her and her son. Dr. Preston Grind, a famous child psychologist, has created the Infinite Family Project. For 10 years, 10 babies and their parents will live in a complex. The adults will raise the children together as a collective family while pursuing their professional goals, with all living expenses covered by an eccentric benefactor; however, none of the children will know who their biological parents are. While many of the participants find the setup strange, the project is successful for a long time. But when the utopian arrangement begins to fall apart, Izzy is faced with the fear of once again being without a family. Teens will identify with Izzy's complicated relationship with her father and her hopes and fears for the future. What makes this story stand out is the questions it raises about current family structures as well as the benefits and drawbacks of the "it takes a village" approach to raising children. VERDICT Recommend this engaging, thought-provoking novel to teens interested in psychology or family studies.—Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD
“A good story, and even better storytelling.” (John Irving, The New York Times Book Review)
“Wild. . . . [A] provocative read.” (People)
“Charming. . . . Wilson pulls off his sweet-and-tart tone. . . . The novel delights in the project’s Willy Wonkaesque sense of antic chaos.” (Washington Post)
“Delicious. . . . Wilson is such an inventive and witty writer. . . . [His] ‘perfect little world’ of a novel pretty much lives up to its title.” (NPR)
“Persistently compassionate. . . . Wilson’s best moments are funny and earnest. . . . [His] crisp language and smart plotting make Perfect Little World immensely likable and absolutely enjoyable.” (GQ)
“Quirky. . . . Wilson’s Perfect Little World finds its bliss in the vast disconnect between people’s best intentions and where they land.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“The sheer energy of imagination in Wilson’s work makes other writers of realistic fiction look lazy. . . . The novel’s grand finale . . . reminds us that not everything unpredictable is painful or bad, and that conventional arrangements have no monopoly on the profound connections that make family.” (Newsday)
“Family is far more than a biological bond; that’s not a groundbreaking idea. But Wilson has found a lovely new way of telling readers something they know by heart.” (Houston Chronicle)
“The compensation is a greater richness in the characters, and a refreshingly un-ironic attitude toward love (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
“Wilson does an incredible job of telling a compelling story while addressing important social issues. . . . Thought-provoking. (Deep South Magazine)
Top customer reviews
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The book centers on Izzy who is sleeping with her art teacher in HS in Part 1 of the book. She is the top of her class, but wants to fail, so she doesn't have to give the valedictorian speech. She has a disconnected father and works in a BBQ shop where her manager is her father figure. As one can guess, Izzy becomes pregnant with her teacher's baby and he takes off on her. Lost and really alone, she runs into Dr. Grind.
Grind is a psychologist who is about to start a study on communal living. Parents will care for each other's children and the children will not know who their biological parents are until later on in the experiment. The cost for Izzy is 10 years of her and her child's life, but all expenses are paid and she will get a free college education.
Part 2 is each year of the experiment. I won't spoil it, but one can guess things will not run smoothly. There will be difficulty with some parents letting others raise their child, family issues, sexual tension, and a whole slew of other issues that happen when people are thrown together for long periods of time. The interesting thing is this is normal for their children since this is their lives, so they do not know there are problems. Can the program survive all of this with individual personalities running amok?
This was both a funny and insightful book at the same time. While the focus should be on the children and what will become of the them, the real experiment happens with the adults. Izzy is a single parent too in the midst of families who signed up for this, so she is always the outsider in terms of being the youngest and single, so her perspective will always be different. So, it is nice to travel with Izzy as our narrator.
The fun is seeing how bad this experiment gets. It doesn't get outrageous in the sense of diverging from reality, but it is very real as in what happens when one couple wants to divorce one another mid experiment? Or what about living in community where your wife isn't your own wife or husband isn't your only husband? While couples are expected to stay with one another, what happens when alcohol is introduced?
I found the book a fun read that got a bit laggy at times, but it could have been my situation of being stuck on a train rather than the book itself. It was a simple read too that drew me into the situation. While the couples got jumbled a bit, part of that was the point as Izzy acknowledges that she can't remember everyone's name all the time. The children are the background of the book and aren't really developed except for Cap, Izzy's child. They are just there to keep the experiment going.
I gave this one 4 stars.