Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon & Shuster Books for Young Readers
Length: 356 pages
Subjects: Floating Cities, Religion, Romance, Murder
How I obtained the book: Library; hardcover
On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan’s older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.
Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.
The Internment Chronicles is Lauren DeStefano’s first venture outside the world of The Chemical Gardens series, which brought her to fame. While I couldn’t expect Perfect Ruin to top the Chemical Garden series, I am still very disappointed by how it turned out. Perfect Ruin had an interesting premise but the execution was simply subpar.
Perfect Ruin takes place on a postage stamp sized utopia called the ‘Internment’. The name itself does not exactly sound very promising, but don’t let it fool you. From first glance, Internment’s society is perfect. There’s virtually no crime, living arrangements are made for everyone, and everything is balanced to make sure there is neither over nor under population. Everything is perfect.
Or at least – it was. A brutal, gory murder of a young girl rocks the island off balance and now, no one feels safe.
Despite my general dislike for the book, I have to admit that Lauren DeStefano’s world building is exquisite and thorough. By the end of the novel I have a concrete idea of Internment without it being overwhelming. She introduces aspects of Internment slowly and on an as-needed basis.
However, DeStefano’s world building tended to focus more on the physical and cultural features of Internment without explaining much of the history. I found myself still having major unresolved questions. For example, what is this island doing there? Has it always been there – or did something happen? What’s with the royal family – how did they come into power? What time period is it? In some ways it was modern but in others it felt distinctly like a steampunk novel set sometime in the mid twentieth century.
As much as I enjoyed the world building, the writing and the awful plot ruined whatever hope I had for Perfect Ruin. The writing felt more similar to that of a debut author, which surprised me given my deep love for DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series.
The pacing was way too slow for the book, as the plot required much faster pacing. DeStefano did little to keep the reader interested and I did not care at all about the plot. The tension was very problematic and practically nonexistent.
In the beginning the plot was very interesting but, somewhere mid-novel the book started to crawl on interminably. After a major plot twist, the last half of the book alternated between lagging and speeding. It just wasn’t up to par, given what I have come to expect from DeStefano.
While, in true DeStefano fashion, many of the secondary characters were well crafted and enjoyable characters, the main character, Morgan lacked individuality. She blended into the surroundings, as the side characters out-shined her completely. I would have preferred if the story was told by someone else, because Morgan was entirely unremarkable.
Overall, Perfect Ruin was a perfect mess for me with a few good qualities that just couldn’t quite redeem the book. I definitely do not recommend this book, especially not to fans of the Chemical Garden series.