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My Perfect LifeReview - My Perfect Life
by Dyan Sheldon
Candlewick, 2002
Review by Lorraine Rice
Apr 6th 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 14)

My Perfect Life by Dyan Sheldon is the sequel to Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, but unfortunately it does not have the zip, vitality, or grit of the original story. The characters are the same, Lola Cep, the Drama Queen, Ella Gerard, her best friend and foil, Carla Santini, "idol of idiot worshippers", Sam Creek, resident libertine, and an assortment of teen Barbis, geeks, and freaks. It is also told in first person, but the narrator in My Perfect Life is not Lola, but is her best friend, Ella. This creates a problem for fans of Confessions because the readers expect the words are the words of Lola as they were in the first novel. They expect it and are disappointed because they have come to see their favorite teens from a consistent point of view. The readers need to change their perspective before they can crawl inside the character of Ella. And to tell the truth, she's not as interesting as Lola.

The conflict in this sequel is between Ella Gerard and Carla Santini with Ella being the pawn of Lola's ambition. Carla Santini is running for president of the student body, and Lola has decided since she herself can't run because of a technicality, she will champion Ella as the next best thing. The problem is that Ella doesn't want the office, nor can she even imagine herself beating Carla at anything. It is bad enough that Lola wants her to enter into this political and social fray, but Ella's Stepford Wife mother expects her to help Carla win! If the plot is starting to sound a little like an episode of "I Love Lucy", with Lola being Lucy Ricardo and Ella being Ethel Mertz, you aren't far from wrong. Lola even manages to the astonishment of the entire school to drag the anti-government Sam Creek onto the ticket as vice presidential running mate without either his permission or knowledge. He finds out about his candidacy the same way the rest of the school does, at the principal's announcement of the running slate.

Sheldon's style and vocabulary in most of the novel are still right on, but there are too many "I have to explain this to you in case you didn't read the first installment" asides, like the extended explanation of the Sidhartha incident used to justify to My Perfect Life readers why Lola lacks credibility. "The Sidhartha incident happened around the time of the school play. Because she was so furious at losing the lead in Pygmalion to Lola, Carla made a big deal about being invited to Sidhartha's farewell concert and the party after it. Sidhartha was our favorite band. Not one to ignore an impossible challenge, Lola immediately announced that she and I had been invited, too. Everyone knew Lola was lying. Which was why Carla Santini was able to convince everyone that we hadn't been at the party, when in fact we were."  This condensed précis of Confessions may be necessary to the uninformed, but its inclusion and others like it give the flow of this novel bumpy interruptions that are almost condescending to the readers. The author might have avoided this if she had continued the story in Lola's voice instead of Ella's which would have kept the readers in their comfort zone of what they expected in My Perfect Life.

That being said, there is still enough richness to Sheldon's writing to recommend My Perfect Life to teen girls who have wanted to hear more about Lucy's, I mean Lola's, antics in "Deadwood". I just can't help but wonder, "What if...? What if...? What if...?

Lola, of course, is never bothered by the what-if question." 

 

© 2005 Lorraine Rice

 

Lorraine Rice provides the following information about herself.

  • Adjunct Professor of English and ESL at Suffolk Community College, NY for 16 years.
  • Poet and Artist My web page: http://hometown.aol.com/euterpel66/myhomepage/poetry.html
  • Widow and mother of three adult children and one granddaughter.
  • BA St. John's University, Jamaica NY
  • MA SUNY at Stony Brook, NY
  • Like to explore: the Internet, evolutionary-psychology, countries, books, people, outdoors, flea markets, and old roads.
  • Like to create: portraits, gardens, found-object sculpture, lists, poems, and friendships.
  • Like to travel: to most of US States, Canada, Bermuda, England, Brazil, China, and Mexico.


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