At the end of the summer term, my dad kindly gave our three children a book token each for their good school reports and hard work over the academic year. Whilst browsing in Waterstones, our eldest daughter and I spotted a pile of books on the bottom shelf of a trolley, which were waiting to be shelved. ‘This looks worth a read,’ I said, passing the book to my daughter. ‘Ooh, yes, it does,’ she replied, adding it to her selection. The book was ‘A Place Called Perfect’ by Helena Duggan and it certainly was worth a read.
The reader is thrown straight into the action from the first pages when we are introduced to Boy and the implication that all is not as it seems in Perfect. We meet the main character, Violet, in the next chapter. Violet is not happy to be moving to Perfect. Her dad has taken a new job there with the Archer brothers. He’s an opthalmologist and his research has brought him to the attention of the Archers.
Perfect is perfect except for one thing: everyone wears glasses and can’t see without them. Something in Perfect makes its inhabitants blind and the ‘rose-tinted’ spectacles manufactured by the Archers enable people to see. That isn’t the Archers’ only profession though, they also produce a special tea from the leaves of the chameleon plant that tastes however you want it to taste, and everyone in Perfect drinks it.
Whilst Violet’s parents settle down quickly into their perfect lives, Violet is still unhappy to be moving away from her friends, but a startling discovery confirms her suspicions that all is not well in Perfect. Violet starts to hear a boy speaking to her when she is not wearing her glasses and also discovers some glasses hidden in her mattress that allow her to see Boy as well. When Violet’s father disappears and she finds that there are less-than-perfect, secret areas of the town, she is catapulted into a dark, disturbing adventure.
I’m not going to say any more about the plot, because I don’t want to ruin the story. Both our daughter (aged ten at the time of reading, now 11) and I loved this book. It rattled along at a good pace, with no dull bits whatsoever. There were a few gruesome and scary bits, but it wasn’t too much for the 8-12 age range, we felt. I did have a fleeting feeling at the start that it was all very improbable, which I think was due to the book throwing the reader straight into the action. But the fast-pacing and intrigue soon had me hooked into Violet’s world and I was able to absorb myself and suspend belief. I also liked the cover design and the map in the front of the book. I do love a book with a map!
A great middle grade book, with an intriguing plot and good characterisation. Highly recommended. There’s a hint of a sequel at the end of this book too, which we’re looking forward to. Hurry up and write it, Helena!!