The Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

By Sarah K. - TAB

April 29, 2013

 

"I had nobody to blame but myself," concludes Kendra, capricious protagonist of Jennifer Brown's summer contribution to the young adult road trip subgenre Perfect Escape. "All of it was my fault." Such self-aware confessions seem to be a more or less guaranteed part of the late-night-freeway passenger seat novel, as are the colorful, conflicted characters who find themselves driving the distance--here, a magnetic boy whose severe OCD dominates his every waking moment, a sister whose perfect academic record to rival her older sibling's individuality is about to go up in flames (should the classmates who once needed her information sell their own to the authorities), and a teen mom who stands at the crossroads between undefined autonomy and clear resignation. It is Brown's subtle insight into domestic dysfunction that sets her book apart: there may be reconciliation, but in real life the starting-over line is often drawn less than straight. Her characters occasionally fall back on their old ways of thinking when approached with obstacle after obstacle, seemingly contradicting the genre-guaranteed theme of change, yet that is exactly what makes them appeal all the more.

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