About In a Perfect World
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.
I am so in love with this book. The romance and the vivid setting and the relationships between Caroline and her parents (who were cool, but still parental–not the easiest balance to strike, but I thought they were awesome!) made this an unforgettable story. I liked the way Caroline’s experiences in Cairo made her think about the way women get treated, but also made her separate individuals from culture.
In writing this book, Doller doesn’t shy away from some of the political and cultural issues an American might face in moving to Egypt. In a Perfect World, despite the rosy glow of its title, explores a Cairo still in the aftermath of a revolution. While women are free to choose what clothing they wear, many face cruel or gross comments by some men even if they’re dressed modestly by Western standards. The story shows more than those extremist views, though. Caroline meets several devout and incredibly kind and giving Muslims. I liked that such a broad spectrum of people was represented in the story and felt like it added a lot of value without adding a lot of preaching.
Some readers may be uncomfortable with the idea of romance developing between a Muslim and a Catholic. I always feel like I can’t really pass judgment there since my own family crosses lines of faith. So that’s going to have to be something readers feel out for themselves. I liked that Caroline and Adam approached the possibility of their relationship knowing how serious those differences were between them, as they both highly valued their faiths. That totally resonated with me in my own life and relationship.
I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Trish Doller at ApollyCon last spring, and we talked a bit about this book (which wasn’t out yet at the time). I remember being totally intrigued and pre-ordered myself a copy after I got home. I’m SO glad I did, and so glad I was able to spend time with such a thoughtful, amazing author who challenges her readers to think even while telling deeply moving stories.
In a Perfect World is a great fit for Sarah Dessen fans as well as fans of romance or cultural stories in general. It’s a pretty quick read, and still a pretty new release, so keep this one in mind for the holidays, either as a fireside read or a gift for the reader in your life!
Caroline and her (white Catholic) family move to Egypt for a year. Adam and his family are Egyptian and Muslim. Caroline meets lots of Muslims of varying practice and beliefs. Some are kind to her and some judge her pretty harshly.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used infrequently. Maybe four or five times through the whole book.
Kissing between boy and girl. One brief reference to a boy putting his hand up Caroline’s shirt. (It’s implied he had her consent.) In Cairo, some men (strangers) make lewd comments to her and one unknown man touches her butt in a crowd. Caroline describes her frustration and humiliation at the experiences as well as her frustration at the men she talks to about it who sort of shrug and say, that’s just how it is here. (Not everyone responds that way.)
References to Catholic prayer and traditions. Caroline talks openly about her anxiety about living in a Muslim country and wonders how women who wear the hijab feel. She listens to the call to prayer—her mother explains what it means.
Caroline visits the church supposedly set on the place where Jesus once was. She thinks about him and his family as people who, like her, traveled to Egypt as foreigners.
Caroline hears about a bomb destroying an area of Cairo. At one point, she knows at least one of the victims killed in the blast.
Her parents make a comment about not being able to bring wine as a gift to dinner hosts who are Muslim. School friends invite Caroline to a beach trip in a place where there are bars. Her parents don’t allow her to go.