Hana Yang Lerner seems to have it all. She excels academically and attends St. Francis, the most elite private school in Washington, D.C. Plus, her position as the daughter of a prominent senator means she is popular and has a bright, shining future ahead of her.
However, Hana’s reputation is ruined when her father is arrested for a car accident that left a woman seriously injured. Unable to fix her own life, she becomes the school’s unofficial “fixer” – the fixer of other people’s problems. Now, her fellow students contact her, knowing she will be able to bury their secrets. With her friends gone and a deep knowledge of how to make and use connections to her advantage, Hana is well up to the task.
Until one day, when Hana is contacted by an anonymous student, called Three. Three asks Hana to trail her ex-best friend, Luce Herrera. Hana agrees, thinking this is how she gets her old life back. But the deeper she digs, the more she finds out about her classmates – more than she ever wanted to know. Along the way, she is also forced to confront a deep secret of her own.
The redeeming qualities of My Flawless Life mostly have to do with its discussion of complex issues such as the “money fixes everything” mentality, parental expectations, and the value that teens place on popularity and reputation. Because Hana and her classmates come from prominent families, they are expected to be perfect and do great things with their lives. Through Hana’s thoughts and emotions, readers will get a glimpse into how that pressure affects teens. They will also see how that pressure is reflected in Hana’s actions, and to a lesser extent the actions of her classmates.
The overlap between money and reputation is also discussed, bringing to light how important money is in elite circles. Hana’s family’s reputation shatters after her father loses his job and they are forced to move into a smaller home, showing how quickly status can be lost. At the same time, this book examines how money can make a lot of problems go away. For example, Hana is paid well to keep her classmates’ secrets in the dark. My Flawless Life seeks to examine how teens growing up in wealthy elite circles are essentially encouraged to use money in this way. The story condemns this, while simultaneously showing the pressure and expectations that leads teens to accept this way of life despite its ethical concerns.
However, My Flawless Life is lacking in many aspects. Despite its marketing as a thriller, the book is slow-paced until over halfway through the story. The first half is mostly background information that could have been woven throughout the story to make the pacing more even. Once the mystery actually begins to unfold, the pacing feels too quick – there are so many twists and turns in such a short amount of time that the plot becomes confusing and overwhelming. Furthermore, although Hana is an interesting and well-developed character, most of the side characters feel flat and underdeveloped.
In spite of the book’s drawbacks, My Flawless Life is interesting and worth a try for readers who enjoy mysteries, unreliable narrators, and discussions about issues such as money, parental expectations, and academic pressure. If you’d like another engaging story that touches on topics such as wealth and parental expectations, American Royals by Katharine McGee would make an excellent choice. Readers should also pick up Amber House by Kelly Moore, a fast-paced story that focuses on family drama.
- In a flashback, a car accident is described: “Through the beam of our headlights, I saw a flash of a person in front of us, one arm raised to her face as if bracing for impact. Then darkness. A grotesque thud on the front of the car. A sickening crunch as we skidded through the grass. Then stillness.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- At a party, Hana sees one of her classmates, Tiffany, snort a line of what Hana assumes is Adderall.
- At another party, Hana and her classmates play a drinking game. Some drink alcohol, while others drink nonalcoholic soda, but those who do drink get slightly tipsy.