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Art Is What You Can Get Away With

Get to know a young artist through her own thoughts in Kayla Cagan’s Piper Perish.

Art Is What You Can Get Away With

BOOK REPORT for Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan

Cover Story: Different Strokes
BFF Charm: Nay
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Dear Diary
Bonus Factors: Art, Email Relationship, Coach Taylor Award
Anti-Bonus Factor: Horrible Sister
Relationship Status: It’s Not Me, it’s You

Cover Story: Different Strokes

I really think the multicolored paint strokes spelling out the title of this book—which is about an artist—was a great way to go. And the color really stands out from the white. It reminds me a little of those popular paint mixing Instagram videos (that I don’t entirely understand the appeal of, but that’s neither here nor there).

The Deal:

Piper Perish is an Artist. She enjoys nothing more than getting lost in painting for hours at a time, and her plan for post-high school is set in stone: move to New York City with her two best friends, attend art school, live and breathe art for the rest of her life.

But best laid plans often go awry, and Piper’s goals begin to unravel—when they’ve barely just begun—thanks to friend and family drama.

BFF Charm: Nay

Piper reminded me a lot of my high school best friend—a truly original woman who is still, to this day, a talented artist—if you took everything that made my best friend a cool person other than her art and left a self-indulgent and self-involved, somewhat pretentious, mostly clueless teen. (So, really, very little like my best friend.) I could see myself liking Piper more had the book not been written in diary format; ask anyone who wrote a diary while in high school: we are rarely our best selves when writing things we don’t expect anyone else to ever read.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Piper’s first relationship (in Piper Perish, at least) isn’t right for her. Her second is with a guy who's kind of a douche. Only her third, which comes in the form of emails, is the most swoony of the three, but it’s barely begun before the book ends, leaving readers hanging. With hope, but still.

Talky Talk: Dear Diary

I’m not an author, but I can assume writing a YA novel in a diary format is really, really hard. On the one hand, you want to create an accurate and real account of someone’s life, but diaries are notoriously unreliable for containing actual facts. And—to be blunt—teenagers are kind of awful, particularly in their personal writing. In Piper Perish, Kayla Cagan did create a realistic account of a teen girl’s life, but because said teen girl wasn’t all that likeable, the novel didn’t grab me. Reading through Piper’s eyes colored every situation and other character with her attitude and views, rather than giving readers an opportunity to judge them for themselves.

Bonus Factor: Art

Piper is obsessed with Andy Warhol. So much so that she cuts and colors her hair to look like his, and also frequently emulates his wardrobe. This obsession is a tad twee at points, but I do appreciate the passion for art, in general, that Cagan imbued Piper with. So much of the book revolves around art, in various forms, and I appreciated the inclusion of so many poignant quotes from artists. (I do love a good quote.)

Bonus Factor: Email Relationship

Piper has an email relationship with someone in the book that starts off innocent and surface-level, but quickly turns into something more. It’s the best relationship in the book, and the other person involved is probably the best character, regardless of the fact that we don’t actually ever get to “meet” him in person.

Bonus Factor: Coach Taylor Award

Piper’s high school art teacher, Ms. Adams, is effortlessly cool in the enviable way artists often are. Thankfully, she’s not flighty or clueless like some artists can be unfairly portrayed in pop culture; she helps Piper when Piper’s struggling with her art, and is good influence and role model for Piper, whose own parents aren’t all that great.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Horrible Sister

Piper’s sister Marli is the worst. She’s manipulative and vicious, and quite possibly an actual sociopath. Although Piper tries to talk to her parents about this, they often just brush it under the rug. I would have liked to see more resolution of this issue, rather than being left with a general uneasy feeling and fear for those whom Marli’s turbulent emotional state affects.

Casting Call:

Elle Fanning as Piper

Relationship Status: It’s Not Me, It’s You

I think I would have dug you more, Book, had we not gotten to know each other so intimately so quickly. There’s something to be said about not knowing everything about someone when you’re just getting to know them, and I think our time together suffered from me literally being able to read your innermost thoughts.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Chronicle Books, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Piper Perish will be available Feb. 28.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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