Review: Planning Perfect

Planning Perfect

by Haley Neil

Bloomsbury YA (imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing), 2023

Category: Young Adult
Reviewer: Kathryn Hall

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Felicia is a sixteen year old biromantic ace spectrum Jewish girl from Boston with anxiety and perfectionist tendencies. She wants things to be by the book and believes that she is the responsible adult of her family. She thinks that her free-spirited nontraditional mother is irresponsible. Felicia takes control of planning her mother's (first) wedding at a Vermont apple orchard. What could go wrong? Mother/daughter drama. Grandmother/mother drama. Drama with her gay Pakistani best friend, and with her Korean-American friend (potential girlfriend?) in Vermont. Could Felicia be overthinking, over-planning, controlling and steamrolling? Will there be a happy ending? Of course! Like Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse, Felicia is "faultless in spite of all her faults" and her personal growth makes her much more likeable.
The grandmother, mother, and daughter in this story are all Jewish and appear to be Ashkenaki, with the oldest generation belonging to a Conservative or Reform synagogue, but the main characters are much less engaged with Judaism. The differences in observance are one of many causes of discord between the generations, which is a main theme. The Jewish content is casual, but it would be a different story without it, and it is well-integrated into the story. It would definitely increase the reader's understanding of the Jewish experience, and would be relatable to the non-Jewish reader. The Jewish content is authentic and appropriate for the story.

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Reviewer Kathryn Hall is a retired pediatrician, lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, volunteer librarian for her synagogue for over twenty years and for her local LGBT+ center for the past six years, and active in her local PFLAG chapter since it was founded in 2008. She has a special interest in Jewish children's literature with LGBT+ content. She lives in Central California with her husband, the youngest of her three children, and two of her eight grandchildren.