Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: October 1, 2014
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Friendship, post-high school decisions, family life
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: After an intense summer romance, Sean is starting his senior year of high school single. He works at a thrift shop, reluctantly helps his future sister-in-law with wedding tasks, and sets his sights on joining the Marine Corps. Sean secretly gets the ball rolling, never thinking he has any reason to stay in town post-graduation.
After purchasing Carrie Mesrobian’s Sex & Violence back in February, I never imagined that Perfectly Good White Boy would be my first time officially reading her. (Though, I’m hoping by the time this review publishes I will have read my copy of her debut book.) But I’m glad this title finally got my butt into gear. For once, high expectations did not ruin my reading experience. Perfectly Good White Boy was that good.
Sean is a senior in high school, recently moved into a rental with his mom. His dad is off to rehab. His older brother is engaged to a bubbly girl and they are in the midst of planning their wedding. (The DIY projects peppered throughout the story made me smile.) Over the summer, Sean fell into an unexpected romance with Hallie, a older girl he knows from school who is off to college. I appreciated how Mesrobian crafted Sean’s character. He was a pretty normal teen who was dealing with the aftermath of his family torn apart, he was very open with himself about his sexual urges, and he was also incredibly sensitive. So it’s heartbreaking to him, after being attached to Hallie’s hip, that she decides she wants to start college single.
So Sean is without Hallie (but still missing her), hanging out at home, and also working his part-time job at a thrift shop. I worked so much retail in high school, and I loved how his job was such a big part of his social life. He liked people he worked with, while he disliked others. They all had their quirks, too. In another surprising turn of events, Sean finds himself getting into a friendship with Neecie. It happens by accident but she begins to confide in him about the guy she is sort of seeing. He starts to open up to her in a way he hasn’t with others, and they suddenly have this awesome friendship. Can it be more? Sean isn’t so sure.
Especially because Sean is determined to go into the Marine Corps once he graduates. He doesn’t tell his mother, or call a family meeting. He enrolls, not even wanting to see what happens with his senior year. I was back and forth through the whole book wondering if Sean would go through with it, and, of course, curious about the reaction of his family when they finally found out. I know I had to work through my own acceptance of Sean’s future so I could only imagine what people closest to him were feeling. But, sometimes, we have to make decisions just for us. We just have to.
Perfectly Good White Boy was like this snapshot of Sean’s life before it changed even more than it had already. None of his feelings or the things that happen to him and his friends aren’t necessarily groundbreaking but the fact that they are expressed so authentically on the page made all the difference. From depression to disappointment to the expectations of sex and beyond. I laughed, I teared up, and I wondered what would happen in a year’s time to these characters and their relationships. They all felt like people I knew, and that made the book even more effective for me.
All in all, a super refreshing voice in young adult combined with so many discussion-worthy elements? A winner, for sure.