PERFECT RUIN by Lauren DeStefano
jacket flap blurb
On Internment, you can be anything you dream—a novelist or a singer, a florist or a factory worker….Your life is yours to embrace or to squander. There’s only one rule: you don’t approach the edge. If you do, it’s already over.
This book put me in such a bad mood. The writing style was so engaging, and there were so many great moments and details and talking about the sky and the edge and the festival…but I ended up disliking it. The protagonist is Blandy McBlandbland big time. She’s so incredibly Disney princess perfect, it drove me nuts.
I don’t want flawless honor and moral perfection, this utopia girl. I don’t want this girl that looks on her parent’s murderer and doesn’t want to cause him any pain, doesn’t want to see him pay. I don’t want this girl who doesn’t feel anger, who’s always kind and good and considerate.
I want a protagonist who’s real. I want a gritty girl, I want a flawed girl. I want a girl who chafes at the limitations of her world and herself. I want a girl who needs, who wants, who yearns. I want reality, in all the shades-of-gray and ruthless passion, that it is.
Morgan is not that girl. She is the faultless one, the fake one. The one who is endlessly forgiving when any rational person would be howling for blood. Her best friend, Pen, feels, breathes, lives. Morgan does not. Pen’s betrothed, Thomas, does not. Morgan’s betrothed, Basil, does not. So many characters are flat, existing to power on a plot that was lost long before their world fell apart.
And that brings me to the plot. It is forced. I read it and I see in my head the author, plodding along in their vision, forcing their characters to act in order to further that vision, and loosing sight of who they are what she has made them.
Internment is a floating island bordered by a globe-wall of wind. Get to close to the edge, and for no reason that is ever explained, you go just a little bit crazy. Oh, and you end up with some physical disability. Internment is presented as a utopia, or at least a near-utopia.
So what happens? A girl is murdered. A boy named Judas is blamed. Morgan’s dad is a patrolman (police officer). Morgan runs into Judas, who has escaped custody, and hides him. For no particular reason, she doesn’t think he murdered the girl, despite the fact that her dad is a police officer and you’d think she’d trust his judgement. She seems to trust her world, trust Internment. Believe in it. And yet she hides Judas.
As it turns out, Judas did not kill the girl. The king had her killed because she was speaking against the accepted religion, challenging the way things are in Internment, and planning to fly a “bird” (some sort of plane thing) to the highly-forbidden ground. We learn that the king has had many rebels killed in the past (something which caused Morgan’s father great angst, which he never acted on)—however, most of those were made to look like accidents.
We’re given a reason why the girl, Daphne, was made to be murder, but it doesn’t really make sense. Supposedly, it was to help quell any rebellious thoughts among the populace. Because making people realize the city they thought was safe and perfect actually has a murderer running around is the best way to get them in line.
Anyway, Morgan, her father, her older brother and her older brother’s wife, and her mother are all poisoned via medication that they’ve been taking. The brother, Lex, and his wife, Alice, escape death because they actually just pretend to take the medication. Morgan escapes death by apparently magical means. Her father and her mother—who is completely irrelevant to the story, anyway—are killed.
After this, Morgan, Lex, Alice, Basil, Judas, and a couple others hide out underground in the bird/plane. Lex, Alice, Judas, and the others because they were all rebels. Basil because he goes with Morgan. Then Morgan decides to sneak away during the night to see Pen and to murder the king (she is, as per usual, quite serene through this rash decision). She meets with Pen, and they are promptly captured by the prince and princess, who take them to the castle and lock them up without anyone else knowing (namely, the king). Their goal, find the bird/plane. It’s not clear why.
Morgan and Pen escape, and during the escape Pen thwacks the prince over the head with a brick. They run back to the safety of the bird/plane. Not long after, the bird/plane starts burrowing down, because the bird/plane is also part mole. The plan is to dig to the bottom of Internment and then just fly off to the ground. Only, they don’t have to dig the entire way, because of this wacky, unexplained vortex inside part of Internment called “the swallows.” It sucks them down, and then they’re spat out into the sky. How convenient. How inexplicable.
And then, mid-flight, guess who appears? Yes, the princess. She somehow stole aboard, with a hostage. And this hostage is (wait for it) Thomas, Pen’s betrothed. Aw. Morgan, ever the diplomat, convinces the princess to let Thomas go and give up her weapons (and not once during the conversation does she want to throttle the princess. Oh-so-virtuous Morgan does think of such things like violence, or anger).
The bizarre party manages to land their contraption and step out just in time to be surrounded by ground-dweller vehicles. End of book one.
Oh, and did I mention the author is clearly trying to set Judas, Morgan, and Basil up for a love-triangle? Kill me now. Or better yet, kill them.
All in all, a plot that acts like all the ridiculous elements (I’m looking at you, swallows, and you, wind-barrier) are actually totally plausible and realistic and this is just another alternate-reality/dystopia novel, and a main character less interesting that tepid oatmeal. Which especially sucked, because the premise is so fascinatingly wonderful and the writing so elegant and beautiful.
rating out of five stars