Title: Perfect Escape [indie bound] [amazon]
Author: Jennifer Brown [website] [twitter] [facebook]
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Parental Advisory: Mental illness, OCD, talks of suicide, cheating, runaways
Teachable Moments: suicide, OCD, runaway
“Right there, by the car, I realized that sometimes you don’t have to say you love someone for it to be true. Sometimes you just have to hang out in that person’s shadow and be okay with it.”
Summary(from the publisher):
Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him to live a life of carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra can stand out next to Grayson is to be perfect, and she has perfection down to an art — until a cheating scandal threatens her flawless reputation.
Behind the wheel of her car, with Grayson asleep beside her, Kendra decides to drive away from it all — with enough distance, maybe she’ll be able to figure everything out. But eventually, Kendra must stop running and come to terms with herself, her brother, and her past.
I first became a fan of Jennifer Brown’s writing in March of 2011 when I read her first book Hate List. To say that book was remarkable really wouldn’t do it any justice. Brown had such a fabulous way of telling such a horrid story that you really couldn’t help but be enthralled. Then there was Bitter End. I loved it as much as Hate List but in a very different way. And now I can add Perfect Escape to the list of marvelous Brown books because as much as I loved the other two, Perfect Escape was by far my favorite Brown book to date. I apologize in advance for any spoilers that slip by. I just loved this book too much not to gush.
The book is about Kendra and Grayson, siblings about 3 years apart. Kendra has always been the “perfect” child. She has gotten the best grades, stayed out of any sort of trouble, basically kept her head down, but not because she wanted to, but because she felt she had to to compensate for her brother who had a severe case of OCD. Living in a house with someone with massive compulsions Kendra quickly learned how to make herself invisible. Or so she thought. When a cheating scandal is brought to light showing that Kendra may not be the perfect person she claimed to be she does the one thing she thinks she can do, she runs, and she takes Grayson with her. Now on the road the two of them must figure out just how far they are willing to go to “fix” themselves.
When I tell you this book was fabulous, I mean it was FABULOUS! There wasn’t one part of this story that I could complain about. The characters were so well developed and likable, the plot was paced perfectly and the road trip aspect added a little bonus. I seriously fell completely in love with both Kendra and Grayson and the struggles they both faced. Kendra was this normal high school girl. She got good grades, had a group of friends, had a boyfriend. She got to go to sleepovers and to friends’ houses and on dates and live a normal life. Yet through all of that she felt like she was in the shadow of her older brother. In her head she had to over compensate and be exceptional because Grayson was anything but. Grayson was the kid with “difficulties”, the kid with OCD. He was so wrapped up in his own anxieties that he just couldn’t function like a typical teenager. He was always being fawned over or put into a treatment facility. He never got to go out with friends or dates or sleepovers. His head wouldn’t allow him to no matter how much he just wanted to be “normal”.
But even with their differences Kendra and Grayson had maybe one of the best brother/sister relationships I have ever encountered in a book. Simply put, they loved each other unconditionally. Kendra put up with a lot for Grayson. She was picked on, had her best friend ripped out of her life and had pressure put on her that no kid ever should have had. And Grayson carried a huge burden of guilt on his shoulders for everything he put his sister through and the things he couldn’t control. But when push came to shove they were there for each other. Grayson stepped completely out of his comfort zone and runaway with Kendra and Kendra realized she didn’t want to fix Grayson as much as she wanted him to be able to fix himself. What started as the two of them running away turned into a trip of self discovery and of realizing they would always have each other to count on no matter what.
Brown really wrote a compelling novel that felt very realistic. Never having had OCD I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like. Sure we all have our things that drive us nuts like someone squeezing the toothpaste from the wrong spot or money going in different directions. We call them ticks or quirks. But the way Brown wrote Grayson I actually could feel his anxiety coming off the page. It was very emotional and connected me to the pages in a very real way. She really crafted an amazing novel about the sibling bond and how that bond translates into love. If you haven’t picked up a Brown book yet, trust me and do so. Whether it is this one or one of her others, you won’t be disappointed. And if you have, jump on my float for her as we wait (im)patiently for her next wonderful story!