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Love Potion Number Ten

Perfect Ten features a unicorn on the cover, and that’s where the book peaks.

Love Potion Number Ten

BOOK REPORT for Perfect Ten by L. Philips

Cover Story: A Difficult Picnic
BFF Charm: Caution!
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Hi, You’re Reading A Book!
Anti-Bonus Factor: Anti-Hero
Bonus Factor: Wicca
Relationship Status: Mr. Wrong

Cover Story: A Difficult Picnic

It’s gonna be awfully difficult to get any of those snacks in your gullet if you insist on wearing a unicorn head, mystery man!

The Deal:

It’s been two years since Sam and Landon, the only gay kids at their high school, broke up, and Sam is desperate to start dating again. His friend Meg suggests he write a list of 10 attributes he’s looking for, and take that list into the cemetery on Friday the 13th to appeal to the Goddess in a special ceremony that involves Latin and candles ... As you do. He’s skeptical, but does it anyway. And when it starts raining men, Sam cannot believe his luck. He enthusiastically accepts any and all male attention, thinking only of himself and how happy each boy can make him. What could possibly go wrong?

BFF Charm: Caution!

Sam is selfish and shallow. But he’s also seventeen. I could absolutely forgive him his trespasses ... if he would just learn a lesson at some point! Any lesson. I would literally be satisfied with a driving lesson. My major beef with Sam is not that he is inconsiderate, but that he doesn’t realize it. (So my actual beef is with the author, unfortch.) He is very in-tune with his own feelings—protecting them, calling guys out when they hurt them, etc. But when it comes to his potential love interests or his two best friends, Sam only superficially seems to care. It’s clear who his priority is (starts with an “S,” ends with an “am”), and it’s portrayed as basically a non-issue.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

After two years of nobody, Sam suddenly seems to have his pick of the gay litter: there’s Gus, the French exchange student; Jamie, the soft-spoken artist; Travis, the rock star; and even his ex-boyfriend and current best friend, Landon.

For all the instalove and lack of genuine connection, there were several moments of actual hot swoon. It wasn’t enough for me—probably because I didn’t care for Sam—but I could see how it could light some readers’ fires.

Talky Talk: Hi, You’re Reading A Book!

There weren’t many moments, if any, that I found myself lost in this story. Part of that was because of dialogue choices like the following:

And I cannot drive in zis country, but I walk too. Walk togezer, zen?

Is that how some French people speak English? Sure, I guess. There’s gotta be some. Could you have just told us that Gus spoke with a thick accent? Yes. Yes you could have.

Another part of it was due to an out-of-touch narrative featuring stock characters. Take Travis, for example. He is the lead guitarist for a local band, he wears a leather jacket and guyliner, is bisexual and openly afraid of commitment, has a tongue ring, and basically licks Sam in public the second time they meet. He also doesn’t know what chai is, and is confused when he sees Sam drinking it in the coffee shop they both frequent. He calls it a “hippy fruity drink.” What is this? 1970? I’m pretty sure chai stopped being a hippies-only thing in America when STARBUCKS started serving it—IN 1990.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Anti-Hero

Calling Sam an anti-hero is way harsh, Tai. I’m definitely being dramatic. But it’s awkward to read about a hero you’re supposed to be rooting for and find that you dislike him. Maybe Sam and I got off on the wrong foot. In the very first chapter, he’s talking with Meg about eligible guys in their school, and Sam is totally disparaging to geeks and cheerleaders. But he’s not presented as being mean. It’s just nonchalant belittling. Not cool, dude!

He’s also a Judgy McJudgerson when it comes to Meg—she’s not making the best boyfriend decisions and Sam has ZERO qualms about telling her so. But I’m like, “Uh… plank in your own eye, Samson!”

Bonus Factor: Wicca

Not being a Wiccan myself, I’m unsure whether Philips got the descriptions of Meg and her beliefs right—although obviously there is more than one way to be a Wiccan. What I liked about the inclusion of this religion was that it didn’t feel like a total caricature. Even though Sam and Landon were skeptical about Meg’s talk of the Goddess and passion for spell books, there was still an underlying current of respect. The best example I can give is something that comes out of Meg’s own mouth when she’s going through a rough time and needs to draw on the thing that gives her hope and strength:

The great thing about Wicca is that you don’t need to use any fancy spells or words if you don’t want to. You just have to speak from the heart.

And then she asks for her friends’ support:

And get rid of the doubt, okay? I know you think this is all nonsense, but it works for me, and I need you with me on this.

It’s a nice refreshing voice in the book. I’d read a book about Meg any day!

Casting Call:

Austin Butler as Sam

Relationship Status: Mr. Wrong

Oh Book, what a silly fling we had. I remember when I thought you were a match for me. (We’ll always have those first three pages.) But I think I’ll keep searching for my own Perfect Ten.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Viking, but got neither money nor a pet unicorn in exchange for this review. Perfect Ten is available now.

Lacey Nadeau's photo About the Author: It's taken a decade, but Lacey has finally decided she misses the beaches of Southern California where she grew up. (It took only about a minute for her to miss the Mexican food.) However, she's pretty committed to the fun and sun of Denver, CO, where she plays with spreadsheets by day, and drinks boozy slushies with her husband and puppy by night. The puppy just pretends.