Book Review

Book Review: Perfect on Paper: The (Mis)Adventures of Waverly Bryson by Maria Murnane

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Waverly Bryson hasn’t had it easy lately.

She used to, though. She had a great job, great friends and an amazing fiancé. If there was something bugging her deep down, she shoved it out of the way. After all, Waverly was way too busy organizing her fabulous wedding to the catch of San Francisco while dazzling everyone back at her office with her amazing sports PR skills. Who has time to think about little details when one’s life is so full?

That is until such details wipe out half of one’s agenda clean.

It seems that Waverly was the only person in the relationship burying her nagging suspicion that something just might be wrong, because at the last minute, her fiancé calls off the wedding. And so Waverly sinks into a deep depression.

But our Waverly, like so many other women out there, is of a resilient sort. While she often falls — both metaphorically and figuratively — she always gets back up (eventually) and tries again.

Perfect on Paper: The (Mis)Adventures of Waverly Bryson is the often hilarious, often touching and always heart warming journey Waverly from a life that was only perfect on paper to one that is perfect for her. While it’s obviously a first book, it’s remains an extremely enjoyable read. Many of the mistakes typical of first-time authors — superfluous conversations or those that go on needlessly — are easy to overlook as they are well written.

The story balances the desire to relax and get lost in another person’s world with that of keeping a solid foot in the real world. While Waverly’s adventures never cease to amuse the reader, the story is peppered with reflections on her situation that help propel both the story forward and encourage the reader to do a little reflecting of her own. The best part is that these reflections are not done in a patronizing way; rather, they are kept real and approachable, which makes this book better than many of its counterparts. And while these reflections might seem like a downer, they aren’t, as they are done with the help of great conversations Waverly has with her close friends, brief reflections, sparks of insight and, of course, the Honey Notes.

On top of that, just like in the book How to Be Single, these reflections do not conclude with a brilliant, never before thought of statement (which would have done nothing but turn off readers). Quite the contrary; life is about learning more and more each day, and just like How to Be Single provides a great sounding board for single girls to reflect on their situation, Perfect on Paper is a great sounding board for the recently dumped to pick themselves up and try again.

By the same token, the best thing about this protagonist is that she is so perfectly imperfect. Waverly is the real deal without being ridiculously so. She is the woman who walks out of the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of her shoe, yet doesn’t go into the ridiculous, over-the-top, tripping-and-falling-flat-on-your-face cliché.

The ending, however, was unfortunately too cliché for my taste and dimmed the book for me. Perhaps if it hadn’t been overdone, it would have passed muster; but as it currently stands, I find that the ending is a big contrast to what the rest of the book seemed to be saying.

The message after all is a powerful one: you are good enough if you try hard, not if you get accolades from those around you, and certainly not because you are or aren’t single. It’s also an important message in a society obsessed with image, all the more that the quality of the image doesn’t matter as much anymore as its exposure.

This book has already picked up a couple of prizes and garnered attention in others, including being named a finalist in the 2009 National Indie Excellence Awards, being a winner of the 2008 DIY book festival for genre-based fiction, and being named Book Bloggers Top 10 winner for Women’s Literature in 2008.

But I think that the best prize this book can get is to inspire countless women to reflect on their own lives, accept who they are and make the best of it to make their own lives perfectly imperfect.

First published here on Blogcritics.

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