Past Perfect

by Leila Sales

Past Perfect coverChelsea’s summer job every year is as a historical reenactor at the Essex Historical Colonial Village. She’d rather be selling t-shirts at the Gap, but a job’s a job. And there’s something comforting about returning to Essex every summer.

Until her ex-boyfriend, Ezra, shows up as a new employee, thwarting her plans to seriously get over him during the break.

And her co-workers have just named her an assistant in the on-going war with the OTHER historical reenactment site across the street.

Needless to say, this summer won’t be the boring one Chelsea anticipated.

I think it’s worth mentioning that I have been enamored with the idea of this book since I read a blogger review of it (I think it was Forever YA). So imagine my delight when Past Perfect was a Cybils book!

As expected, PP was a fun read. Chelsea, our main character, was funny and made some fun observations about her life in the reenactment village and her life outside of the workplace.

One of my friends used to work at a historical reenactment village and, when pressed, it appears that Sales got many of the details correct – the constant having to be in character; the crazy photo-ops with strangers (aside: at one point Chelsea wondered how many family albums she appears in. I thought that was an absolutely weird and wonderful thought); the period clothes, etc. And that aspect of the book was so much fun to read about. Seriously.

The only thing that particularly bothered me was the book’s unevenness. In some scenes, Chelsea hated working at Essex, and in the next she loved it. I’m all for changing your mind and/or being fickle, but this made it hard to really grasp Chelsea’s affection (or lack thereof) for Essex. I think the tone Sales was trying for was, to Chelsea, Essex was like going to a family reunion: the ramp-up is dreaded and awful, but you actually do like seeing everyone, awkward and awful moments included. I just think Chelsea was too black and white from one scene to the next to really get that feeling across.

Another uneven issue that bothered me was how dramatic some scenes were that…weren’t terribly dramatic (or shouldn’t have been) to me. There’s a scene towards the end when Chelsea goes into the reenactment camp across the street and it was so…violent…it confused me. I just couldn’t believe that actually happened. Or would happen.

Those issues aside, I enjoyed PP. It would be a great summer read on a road trip with your family. The romance was cute and there were some super funny scenes. I found Chelsea’s interactions with her ex well-done, interesting and realistic.

Like I mentioned above, however, the highlight of this entire book is the crossroad of teenager meets reenactment camps/villages. The details were awesome and, as expected, the combination of the two usually led to pretty hilarious or crazy circumstances. Definitely a good read for any teen who has been dragged to one-to-many historical sites.

Where this book came from: Publisher, for Cybils
Published by: Simon Pulse

p.s. A note on the cover: that cover is freaking adorable. Truly. But…it doesn’t have anything to do with the book. Do you get historic reenactment villages from that cover? No? Neither do I. But, it does get props for being cute.

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