To Be Read Tuesday
By Kate Jarvik Birch
Summery from Goodreads:
Perfection comes at a price.
As soon as the government passed legislation allowing humans to be genetically engineered and sold as pets, the rich and powerful rushed to own beautiful girls like Ella. Trained from birth to be graceful, demure, and above all, perfect, these "family companions" enter their masters' homes prepared to live a life of idle luxury.
Ella is happy with her new role as playmate for a congressman's bubbly young daughter, but she doesn't expect Penn, the congressman's handsome and rebellious son. He's the only person who sees beyond the perfect exterior to the girl within. Falling for him goes against every rule she knows... and the freedom she finds with him is intoxicating.
But when Ella is kidnapped and thrust into the dark underworld lurking beneath her pampered life, she's faced with an unthinkable choice. Because the only thing more dangerous than staying with Penn's family is leaving... and if she's unsuccessful, she'll face a fate far worse than death.
For fans of Keira Cass's Selection series and Lauren DeStefan's Chemical Garden series, Perfected is a chilling look at what it means to be human, and a stunning celebration of the power of love to set us free, wrapped in a glamorous-and dangerous- bow.
Praise for Perfected:
"Compelling, imaginative, and unique. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!"
-Mary Lindsey, author of Shattered Souls
Excerpt from Perfected:
The inside of Penn’s room didn’t look a thing like the rest of the house. Maybe at one point his mother had had a hand in decorating it, but it was hard to tell because of the lengths he must have gone to cover it up. The bones of the room were strong and masculine: solid, wooden furniture stained a dark, deep cherry. But besides the furniture, the rest of the room appeared to be one giant battle against any influence of his mother.
The walls, which had once been painted a soft shade of green, were plastered over with posters of people and old, rusty road signs. The far wall above his bed was almost entirely covered with instruments. I didn’t recognize most of them, but there were a few of them that I could name: a couple of guitars, a mandolin.
“Yeah, most of them… at least a little,” Penn said, glancing up from his speakers. “But I’m only really good at a few. Mostly I play the guitar.”
I looked around for a place to sit, but most of the surfaces were covered in discarded clothes and towels. Apparently Rosa didn’t pick up the laundry in his room the way she did for everyone else.
I stood awkwardly amidst the mess, glancing at the photographs that covered the mirror above the gigantic set of dresser drawers. There were pictures of Penn at the beach, and of him playing the guitar in front of a roaring bonfire. There were pictures of him clustered amid groups of his friends. I searched their faces, trying to recognize the girl from the swimming pool, but none of them seemed familiar.
“Okay,” he finally said, “I’m starting you out with Amos Lee since you liked Ray LaMontagne so much.”
He hit a button and music started playing, sounding as if it was coming from all four corners of his room.
I closed my eyes to the soft sound of the piano, both familiar yet totally new. It was always enchanting to hear a new composition after hearing the same ones year after year, and this one was no exception. The notes were lonely, full of melancholy that reminded me a bit of one of Beethoven’s sonatas. But I wasn’t prepared for the ache I would feel once the singing started. I took a shuddering breath.
“Are you okay?”
I nodded, afraid that if I opened my mouth I wouldn’t be able to speak. I closed my eyes again and let myself drift into the music. It wasn’t until the song faded out and I opened my eyes again that I realized Penn was sitting next to me. He was staring at me again, that same puzzled expression on his face.
“That was beautiful,” I choked out, before he could ask me again if I was all right.
“Yeah.” He smiled. “It’s one of my favorites. Who would have guessed I’d have the same taste in music as a pet from Greenwich Kennels?” It was the first time he’d mentioned my past without sounding angry.
“You can play me something else if you want.”
Penn put on another song and flopped down on the bed next to me, pushing a notebook and a pair of pants onto the floor.
“Sorry about the mess,” he said. “Here, you can scoot over if you want.”
I scooted closer to him, settling into the music. Both of us sat perfectly still and listened to the strum of the guitar and the beat of the drums that played underneath like a heartbeat. Next to me, I could feel the heat of Penn’s leg seeping through the fabric of my dress, making my thigh burn.
He leaned in. This close I could see the bursts of gold inside his eyes, but all I could think about was that kiss, the way his lips had felt against mine. So soft. So warm. I wanted to feel that again. I closed my eyes.
There was a knock at the door and Penn scooted away from me, but not fast enough. His father threw the door open.
“Thank God,” he said, striding over to us. “I looked all over the house for you, Ella. Didn’t you hear me calling?”
“With the music playing, I must not have heard you,” I said, “I’m terribly sorry, Master.”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Penn cringe. I should have remembered that I wasn’t to use that word, but I was so nervous, and the Congressman’s face was flushed and red, distracting me. I couldn’t think straight.
The Congressman turned on Penn. “What were you thinking, taking her up here?”
“I was just playing her some music. It’s not like I—”
“Your music is the last thing I want you to introduce her to. If I remember correctly, you need to be focusing on catching up on your school work, not wasting time listening to songs.”
“Dad, I—” Penn started to say, but the Congressman didn’t seem at all interested.
“Not now. I’ve got two campaign donors waiting in the conservatory to meet Ella. I’ve wasted ten minutes looking for her, so I really don’t have time for your excuses right now.”
As the Congressman took me by the elbow and led me from the room, I chanced one last glance back at Penn.
He had already turned away.
About the Author:
Kate Jarvik Birch is a visual artist, author, playwright, daydreamer, and professional procrastinator. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be either a unicorn or mermaid. Luckily, being a writer turned out to be just as magical. Her essays and short stories have been published in literary journals including Indiana Review and Saint Ann’s Review. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and three kids. To learn more visit www.katejarvikbirch.com
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