EXCERPT and GIVEAWAY
No Such Thing as Perfect
by Sarah Daltry
For another book by this author, check out my blog post on Backward Compatible.
College was supposed to be perfect. She was supposed to be perfect.
For Lily Drummond, life is about following the rules. To be specific, her mother’s rules. College fit into the plan – maintain perfect grades, date the perfect guy, and live the perfect life. On her own, though, Lily realizes that she doesn’t actually have a plan. Without being told what to think and do, she keeps making mistakes.
Away from home, the perfect facade is beginning to shatter. When Lily herself starts to break, it’s the support of an unlikely friend that teaches her how much of a lie perfect really is – and how to be whole on her own terms.
Note: No Such Thing as Perfect was inspired by Sarah's Flowering series, but it stands completely alone as its own title. The same characters appear and some situations are similar, but this was written with a different goal in mind. There is NO on-camera sex in this novel and it is not a "romance" novel by most standards, but a story of growing up and being okay with who you are.
I make it through the week otherwise unscathed. All my work is done, I seem to be maybe becoming friends with Kristen, and Derek’s on his way up to campus. I’ve been pacing for the better part of an hour.
“You need to relax,” Kristen says. “What could go wrong?”
For people who don’t need things in their places, it’s easy to relax. If something goes awry, it can always be fixed later. For people like me, though, everything can always go wrong. When I can’t control it, I panic. It’s the only thing I know how to do.
“What if something’s happened?” I ask for the third time. He was supposed to be here an hour ago.
“Nothing happened. He hit traffic, I bet.”
“But why didn’t he call?”
“Because he’s an idiot. Now sit down and stop pacing. You’re making me nervous.”
There’s a scuff on the toe of my shoes, so I do sit down. I scrub at it, but it won’t come out; my attempts end up making it worse, so now the entire toe is dirty. “I look like hell,” I tell Kristen.
“You look fine – just like you have for the last few hours when you’ve asked. How long have you been dating again?”
“Ten months, and you think he’s going to show up having not seen you in a week and realize he must have been crazy?” she asks.
“It’s just… he’s the only boyfriend I’ve ever had.”
How do I tell her about Rebecca Ellison, about Heather Yost, about Jill Pevarski, about Gina Frey, about all the girls Derek’s dated? How do I explain that nothing ever seemed to happen, that one day he was with them and then one day he wasn’t? How do I make her see that I’ve only wanted him and he fits into the puzzle and that I don’t have a backup plan?
“Never mind. Can I borrow your shoes? The black ones you wore yesterday?”
Kristen shakes her head and jumps down off her bed. “Lily, none of it matters. If Derek doesn’t want you, you’re good enough without him.”
Good enough is not good enough, I think. No one wants good enough. I don’t say anything, though, but I take the shoes and change them. There’s no sign of the scuff. Nothing is out of place, nothing out of order.
Praise for the Book
"Readers of Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl will love this beautifully written contemporary novel" ~ Crushing Cinders
Guest Post by the Author (originally posted on the author's website)
Inspiration for No Such Thing as Perfect
I kind of addressed what makes No Such Thing as Perfect different from Flowering, but the novel is about so much more than just being a rewrite. It’s not a rewrite, but an entirely new book and eventually maybe a series. I grew to love Lily, Jack, Alana, and the rest of them in writing Flowering, but I never really felt right about the books. I know there were good parts of them, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t me. I am simply not a romance kind of girl. Do I like books with love stories? Sure, of course. Backward Compatible is technically a love story, albeit a very different kind of romance, and there’s certainly romantic elements in Dust. I’ve said before that I don’t really have any issues with romance, and a large majority of my favorite books do include romance, but I think it’s imperative, as an author, that the work you are producing feels good to write.
When I decided that it was important to reassess and take down Flowering to align myself with my goals, I did consider just doing a polish. I thought about moving the sexuality of Forget Me Not off-camera, but keeping everything else the same – and then following that path with the others in the series in installments. I had figured it would take a few months and really believed I’d have the whole series edited and redone by early in 2015. But as I stared at the manuscript of Forget Me Not, I just didn’t feel like it was the right story. Lily wasn’t the character in the pages that she was in my head, and the themes weren’t clear. So much of the novel was based on her relationship with Jack and with Derek, but she herself felt secondary to that. It didn’t sit well with me to leave her out of her own story.
I debated, cutting huge sections and trying to fill in the blanks, but nothing worked. So then I deleted the file and opened a new one. I started completely fresh, because I didn’t want to be constrained by something that already existed and didn’t work. I figured if there were parts of the series that belonged, they would find their way back into the story, and they did. But the most important detail for me was letting Lily open up and exist outside of her relationships. This is where I struggled most in writing romance – I needed to isolate the people we are and these characters from being little more than love interests.
Now, in some ways, that’s difficult, because Lily’s relationship with Derek is a catalyst for much of what happens. But in Forget Me Not, I didn’t want a villain. I wanted it to be about a girl who just needed to let go of the past and I was trying to allow for open discussion of sexuality. However, in reworking the story and in listening to Lily, I needed to tap into why it was so hard for her to let go. Much of that comes from her mother and the unreasonable expectations placed on Lily, but a large part also comes from her inability to speak up, to question Derek, to have agency in her relationship with him. I thought a lot about Lily and why she would stay in a relationship that wasn’t working, that clearly was one-sided. And it became clear that she doesn’t see herself as worthy of anything better. I think that’s a common experience for young women involved in toxic situations. I also felt that if we were going to talk about sex, I needed to do so in a way that brought to the surface a lot of the side people don’t seem to want to talk about – the fact that there is an entire emotional undercurrent to it and losing your virginity is a bigger part of a girl’s life than a lot of these stories want to admit (I know it isn’t for everyone, but it is for some and given the climate of our culture, I think we have enough voices echoing the pros of open sexuality. But even in an age when we’re supposedly open about it, sexual violence and unhealthy relationships are still extremely common.)
I have also spent a lot of time thinking about damage and emotional scarring. Lily isn’t perfect – and that was the point. In Flowering, she was supposed to be Jack’s savior, the perfect girl who saw him despite his experiences, but I don’t think Jack needs saving. I also don’t think Lily does and in trying to find a way for them to be equals, for them to support each other and be friends, it was important that Lily was not simply a naive ideal. I knew Lily was strong, but we never had a chance to see why or how in Flowering and that was unfair to her. So now the strength was the primary driving force behind this novel – her strength in being herself, in speaking for herself, and in forging a path of her choosing. She’s not a girl who will change the world, but her quiet strength in the choices she makes at the end of the novel are more honest than anything I’ve written. I also feel that the world needs people like Lily, that everything isn’t about loudly proclaiming strength, but sometimes in just being able to speak up when it’s needed.
There are, as anyone familiar with my writing probably expects, darker elements to this novel. My experiences and what matters to me as a person and my own preferences as a reader tend to bring me to psychological studies and that is woven through this story. But at the end of it all, it’s really a story about growth and self-awareness and simply being okay with all the things that are good about yourself, as well as all the things that aren’t but are beyond your control.
About the Author
Sarah Daltry is a varied author, known best for the contemporary New Adult series, Flowering, a six-title series that explores the complexities of relationships, including how we survive the damage from our pasts with the support of those who love us. Although the books are no longer in print, they are being rewritten and redeveloped for future publication. Please visit Sarah's website for more details.
As a former English teacher and YA library coordinator, Sarah has always loved Young Adult literature and Dust, an epic fantasy novel where romance blends with the blood and grit of war, is her second official foray into YA, following the gamer geek romantic comedy, Backward Compatible. Most of Sarah's work is about teens and college students, as it's what she knows well.
Sarah's passion in life is writing - weaving tales of magic and beauty. The modern and vast social networking world is an alternative universe that she makes infrequent trips to, but when she does, readers will find her attentive, friendly and happy to discuss the magic of stories and reading. Please stop by and say hello anywhere Sarah is online!
Sarah has moved back and forth between independent and traditional publishing. Her first novel, Bitter Fruits, is with Escape, an imprint of Harlequin Australia, and she signed with Little Bird Publishing in the spring of 2014.
Sarah has also written The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, a reimagining of one of her favorite poems in a contemporary setting.
She is an obsessive Anglophile who spends more time watching BBC TV than any human being should, as well as a hardcore gamer and sarcastic nerd.
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