Liz Reinhardt’s The Flipside of Perfect is a warm and authentic coming of age story
Here’s the quick and dirty
In The Flipside of Perfect, Adelaide Josephine Jepsen Beloise has two lives. In Michigan, she is the big sister, the perfectionist, the fixer, and the pleaser. Her family and friends know her as AJ, in that life. But since her parents’ divorce, she’s been spending summers with her dad and two older siblings in Florida, where she is laidback, careless, and messy Della.
Even though she has a good life in Michigan, AJ cherishes the few months every year she gets to be Della. In Florida, she is the baby sister, gets taken care of, and lives worry-free. But the last summer before she graduates high school, her perfectly distinct worlds start to crumble, and she is forced to confront the reality that her split life is no way to live.
Let’s talk about this a bit more
I disliked almost everything about AJ in Michigan. She had questionable friends, a crappy boyfriend, and an overplanned, stressful life. But, that part of her story is not hopeless. Her rebellious younger sister Marnie (one of my two favorite characters) and her talented and sweet baby sister Lilli really balance out AJ’s otherwise insipid Michigan life.
Della in Florida, with Dani, Duke, and her dad, is much more enjoyable and full of life. I love her commitment to the small town beach life. Most of all, I LOVE Jude (favorite character alert!), the only slightly older, witty, sweet, and gentle manager at her dad’s bait shop where she works. Jude has been harboring a massive crush on her for years, but Della so far has shown no interest. When Dani starts encouraging Della to give Jude a chance, she starts to understand that maybe she’s been missing out. But Jude’s insistence on being more than a summer fling puts Della in a tough spot. How would Jude fit into AJ’s life? Would Jude even like AJ?
Before she can find the answers to those questions, a family event forces her two lives to overlap. Soon, Della realizes she can no longer afford to keep being two distinct people. As you would expect from a young adult novel, in the end, AJ/Della/Adelaide finds her voice and a path to her authentic self. Although her multiple lives helped her cope with the trauma of her parent’s divorce, they no longer served her.
The first half of this story is slow, but it wasn’t hard to push through it. Once I finished the book, I started seeing AJ/Della as the heroine that I would’ve loved to read about in high school when I was also struggling through the aftershocks of my parents’ divorce.
The only beef I had with this book is that at times, AJ/Della was almost too wise for her age. She was a bit too insightful, and a little too quick to understand the greater picture. This pulled me out of the story a few times. It was hard to reconcile that this character that began as childish and self-centered could mature from one paragraph to the next.
Although at first it seemed unrelatable, in the end, AJ/Della’s journey felt authentic and warm. It was refreshing to read a story about divorce where both parents are equally invested in their kid’s success for a change. Perhaps, the best part of this book is the message that children of divorced parents are not doomed.