Cover of Past Perfect, with a brunette girl wearing a green rain jacket and holding her head up with her tongue out to catch rain drops

About the Book

Title: Past Perfect
Published: 2011
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Psyche!
BFF Charm: Yay!
Talky Talk: Straight Up With A Twist Of Sass
Bonus Factors: Williamsburg, Territory Wars
Relationship Status: I’ll Be The Abigail To Your John Adams

Cover Story: Psyche!

It’s common knowledge that authors don’t have much (if any) control over their covers, but if you needed any further proof of this problem, look no further than the cover of this book. Obviously a Delia’s model in a raincoat catching chalk sperm with her tongue totally communicates the fact that this story is about a girl working in a reproduction of a colonial village. Wait, what? Damn, we just got punked by Simon Pulse!

The Deal:

When I was in the fifth grade, my parents took me to colonial Williamsburg, because that’s how nerd families roll. And I seriously thought it was the coolest place EVER! The blacksmith made a nail and gave it to me, and all of the ladies wore cool hand-made gowns, and then I got to eat rabbit stew at the pub! Thanks, history! At the time, I thought it would be a blast to work there, sort of like a Disney character but without the hot furry suit or smile muscle damage. But now that I’ve met Chelsea Connelly, I realize that it’s both awesome… and totally sucky.

Chelsea’s been working for Colonial Essex Village since she was kid. Both of her parents work there, and she grew up with a deep appreciation of American History and an even deeper appreciation of air conditioning. Due to these years of experience, Chelsea’s an ace at reenacting the past, and she also happens to be kinda stuck in it. A few months before her junior year ended, her boyfriend, Ezra, broke up with her, and her heart is still broken. So you can imagine her dismay when her tragic present shows up in the colonial past as a new employee for the summer. Unsure if she wants to avoid Ezra or win him back, Chelsea throws herself into the annual war against the teenage employees of Civil War Reenactmentland, which is right down the road from the Village. And then, in the heat of battle, the unthinkable happens: she finds herself falling for the enemy, aka Dan, a cutie who works in Reenactmentland. Is their illicit romance doomed? Will Chelsea finally get over Ezra? Will Village visitors ever find their own way to the bathroom? Chelsea discovers the answers to all of these questions as she learns to release the past and embrace the present.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Yay BFF Charm

Chelsea is the ideal YA heroine. She’s smart and hilarious and thoughtful, but she’s not perfect, so we can skip the whole jealousy part and head straight for friendship. Sure, I wanted her to GET OVER EZRA ALREADY, but I completely empathized with her fear of change. In fact, I’m pretty sure we own the same pair of rose-colored glasses. And although she makes a few decisions that caused me to literally yell, “NO! STOP! WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?” I’m still dying to hang out with her and her adorably ditzy bestie, Fiona. And not just because they do a lot of ice cream taste testing.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

This score would be a bit higher if Chelsea wasn’t still hung up on Ezra. I do have to give Sales major pants for not totally vilifying Ezra and consequently making Chelsea’s heartache more understandable, but come on. DAN IS SO GREAT. He’s a charming flirt (his note involving a hoodie made me squeeee), he rocks a Sex Pistols t-shirt, and he’s not afraid to be honest about his feelings for Chelsea. Plus there’s the extra sizzle from the forbidden romance angle. And did I mention that he’s cute? And a really good kisser? Chelsea’s lucky that I’m not her friend in this book because I WOULD TOTALLY HIT THAT.

Talky Talk: Straight Up With A Twist Of Sass

Sales’ style in this book isn’t much of a departure from Mostly Good Girls, and for that, I thank her. The realistic dialogue is tinged with lolz, and Chelsea’s voice authentically shifts from sassy to angsty (but always endearing). The pacing is a compelling blend of action and hilarious reenactment anecdotes like this one:

“Are you Felicity?” the girl finished bravely, squinting into the sunlight to see my face.

“Nay,” I said. “My name is Elizabeth Connelly.” I curtsied.

The girl looked confused. “I don’t have that doll.”

“I am not a doll,” I said with a laugh. But this chick wasn’t laughing.

“Mama, why don’t I have an Elizabeth Connelly doll?” she demanded with a scowl.

“We’ll get you one at the gift shop,” her mother promised. “They do have those at Ye Olde Shoppe, right?” she asked, pronouncing it like Ye Oldie Shoppie.

I cleared my throat. “Well, Elizabeth Connelly isn’t a doll. She isn’t, er, an American Girl.”

When I can’t think of what to say while reenacting, I say “er” instead of “um.” For some reason I believe that “er” sounds more authentically colonial. I don’t know why. This is probably not true.

See? You want to read this book IMMEDIATELY, don’t you?

Bonus Factor: Williamsburg

So obviously Colonial Essex Village is modeled after Williamsburg, and while I’m glad I’m not the one sweating in several layers of dress, it was a blast to experience it through Chelsea’s employee eyes. The clueless moderners! The super obsessed reenactors! The colonial lingo! And then there’s the dead babies…

Bonus Factor: Territory Wars

In this book, it’s really just called “War,” but I figured using the Jellicoe Road term would give you a better understanding of what the battle between the Village and Civil War Reenactmentland really entails. It’s basically an escalating series of pranks, and the shizz that these kids pull would totally make Frankie Banks proud.

Relationship Status: I’ll Be The Abigail To Your John Adams

I’ll admit, I was predisposed to like this book. I’m a huge fan of Leila Sales, and when I heard about the colonial reenactment premise, I did that thing where I get excited and start saying, “SHUT UP!” even though I obviously mean, “PLEASE TELL ME MORE ABOUT THIS THING OF AWESOME.” I had high expectations for this novel, and I’m happy to report that it totally exceeded them with its wit, charm, and depth. Not only did we have a blast together, we also formed a real connection, and I feel proud to live in a country where fantastic YA books like this one are free to flourish. God bless America!

FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from Simon Pulse. I received neither money nor cocktails in exchange for this review.

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.