All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.
Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love.
Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it…
Past Perfect was the book I needed to get past probably one of the worst days of my entire year. The books I read immediately before this one completely shattered my heart, and with real-life already emotionally exhausting me, I needed something “lighter” to get me through. Fortunately, I had Past Perfect sitting on my bookshelf, unread for months, and it ended up being exactly the book I needed to read.
Past Perfect surprised me in ways I didn’t expect. It was unique (this is the first time I’ve ever encountered a book about reenactment sites), I could relate to it on a personal level, and it didn’t leave me wanting to cry for days (like all of the other books I’ve read in 2012 so far). I fell into Essex life almost as easily as Chelsea did. I loved everything about the town, about Chelsea’s family, Fiona, Bryan, Tawny, etc. Everyone was charming, amusing, adorable, and although sometimes things seemed to move a little too fast, I quickly found myself truly invested in the characters and in the story.
I’ll be honest — I love everything about various time periods and period costumes. Leila Sales had me from the moment she introduced both Essex and Reenactmentland because I could vividly picture them both. The details about the clothing, the “War”, and the way she built up both communities with their authenticities and (mostly hidden to the public eye) anachronisms. What makes this book a little more personal to me is that even though I haven’t seen another book set in such a town, I almost lived in one. My family once (for the summer, since we changed our minds after two months) moved to Texas in a town that loved re-enacting their favorite Civil War battles, particularly those that took place in the state. There wasn’t a built-in tourist attraction dedicated to it, but nearly everyone contributed every few months when a reenactment would take place. A part of me was intrigued because I’d never heard of historical reenactments of any kind in New York, but a part of me was also a little overwhelmed. There were too many differences in Texas, I knew I’d never learn the pledge to the Texan flag, and I missed my home on Long Island too much. So even though I never actually experienced it, I could understand Chelsea’s feelings perfectly.
Although at times Chelsea’s inability to clearly see her relationship with Ezra drove me a little crazy, I love Leila Sales for portraying realistic teenage relationships in this book. The characters in Past Perfect weren’t full of extremes. Chelsea wasn’t stupid, but she had been subconsciously altering the way she saw Ezra and her relationship with him because it had been complicated, heartbreaking, but also fun. I love that he isn’t demonized, and I love that throughout the book, it’s easy to see that on some level, even though she isn’t even aware of it, Chelsea acknowledges that her best friends’ thoughts and warnings about the past have some truth to them. I also loved the way that Dan and Chelsea’s friendship developed, especially for two people who were supposed to be on “opposing teams”. Their relationship was still just beginning by the story’s finish, and I felt that they were moving at a realistic pace, and portraying exactly what I feel a “teenage relationship” should be. (Well, not exactly. It would be strange to imagine every teenage relationship as one between an adorably stubborn Colonial girl and an amusingly adorkable Civil Warrior.)
My favorite aspect of Reenactmentland/Essex was the War. I’m not much of a pranker by any means, but I love a good laugh as much as the next person, and aside from one prank gone awry, I loved everything about the tomfoolery in Past Perfect. Tawny and Chelsea’s plans were absolutely hilarious. The more they plotted, the more intrigued I became in trying to figure out exactly how the Civil Warriors would retaliate. I enjoyed the War Councils and the ideas they’d spout trying to plan their moves. I love how spontaneous and random some of the things they were, and how these characters, who seemed so “sane”, would have the gall to come up with some of the things they came up with. One of my favorite scenes involves historical inaccuracies, Red Coats, and a demand for a stolen hoodie, but… Haha, you’re going to have to check out the book yourself to see what any of that means.
For anyone who is curious (because it’s completely relevant in the context of this book and Dan and Chelsea’s relationship), I wholeheartedly recommend jumping on trampolines
with cute boys. I have one in my backyard as well and it is probably the best money I ever spent (next to any I’ve spent on books).
What stood out to me most about this book (and this is exactly why it was the perfect read for me at the time) are the themes: living every moment simultaneously because there is history everywhere; learning from the past so that you aren’t “doomed to repeat it”; realizing that there are several sides (or at least, more than one) to every story and that we only remember what we want to remember from each of them… I thought it was quite realistic the way Chelsea came to grips with her own reality, and I thought her self-discoveries were well-written and believable.
Past Perfect is a fantastic, quick read, and though it’s certainly not emotionally-draining, like I expected, it’s still quite thoughtful and intriguing. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys amusing conversations, ice cream, phenomenal pranks, history, and period costumes.