by Trish Doller
Read: March 27 - 29, 2017
Published: May 23, 2017 by Simon Pulse
Category: YA, Contemporary, Travel, Egypt, Romance
Book Description: Caroline Kelly is excited to be spending her summer vacation working at the local amusement park with her best friend, exploring weird Ohio with her boyfriend, and attending soccer camp with the hope she’ll be her team’s captain in the fall.
But when Caroline’s mother is hired to open an eye clinic in Cairo, Egypt, Caroline’s plans are upended. Caroline is now expected to spend her summer and her senior year in a foreign country, away from her friends, her home, and everything she’s ever known.
With this move, Caroline predicts she’ll spend her time navigating crowded streets, eating unfamiliar food, and having terrible bouts of homesickness. But when she finds instead is a culture that surprises her, a city that astounds her, and a charming, unpredictable boy who challenges everything she thought she knew about life, love, and privilege.
Before I started this book I was worried that Caroline would 1) be bitter and resent her parents for moving her halfway around the world, creating a lot of angst and 2) try to eat at McDonalds every chance she got (this is my major pet peeve with teen travel books). Thankfully that doesn't happen. Caroline isn't happy about moving to Cairo, Egypt the summer before her senior year in high school, but she's making the best of it. She has a great relationship with her parents - who also adore each other - and she's excited that her mom is following her dream and making a difference by opening an eye clinic in another part of the world. One of my most unexpected favorite parts of this story was Caroline's parents and her relationship with them.
I enjoyed watching Caroline begin to learn her new city and try to fit into a culture that's so vastly different from her home in middle America. Part of that is seeing the incredible sights of Egypt - both well known and more hidden, and part is discovering the food. This book is a culinary experience, thanks to Adam, the son of the man Caroline's family hires as driver. Adam is the definition of sweet and respectful and he and Caroline form a friendship when he begins driving for her after his father suffers a heart attack. I enjoyed exploring Cairo with both of them, as they got to know each other and slowly fell for each other.
But of course, Adam and Caroline's adorable romance is made complicated by family obligations and cultural expectations. Caroline is a Catholic Christian and Adam is a Muslim. He is expected to marry a girl of his faith, and she is leaving in a year. They are also both viewed very differently in each other's cultures, and what seems to be simple and sweet at first, quickly becomes difficult and possibly impossible to navigate. Watching Adam and Caroline work through their obstacles was both heartbreaking and rewarding.
I love stories about travel and exploring new places, all of which In a Perfect World does well. But under the surface of this book about a girl learning to fit in someplace new, and the sweet romance she develops in the process, are themes that push deeper and make this story very relevant today. What is it like to move to a new country with a completely different set of rules, especially a place with so much current unrest? Can two people from different parts of the world connect on a personal level? And is it possible for these two to find their way forward together despite distance and all the obligations placed on them (whether that be romantically or as friends)?
I wasn't expecting how much was packed into this book, but I'm so glad I read it, and I definitely recommend it.
Love Triangle Factor: None - Contrary to the description, Caroline has already broken up with her boyfriend when the book begins.
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone