High school yearbook photographer Harper is stunned when she and star quarterback Brody are voted “the Perfect Couple That Never Was.” Never mind that she’s been attracted to the handsome daredevil since their elementary school days. She’s currently dating Kennedy, the intellectual film buff and yearbook editor, and Brody’s with Grace, a popular cheerleader. Besides, Harper and Brody have zilch in common. She wears glasses and obeys school rules, while Brody’s impulsive pranks land him in the principal’s office with astonishing regularity.
Naturally, despite a bunch of obstacles, the two are drawn together. They shed their current dating partners and end up as an unlikely but mutually committed couple. This, of course, is a familiar trope in romance—bad boy with the good heart and six pack abs ends up with a nice, slightly geeky girl. In this case, it doesn’t hurt that Harper turns out to be astonishingly beautiful when she takes off her glasses.
And yet, Echols manages to flesh out the characters of Harper and Brody and the issues each confronts, so that their romance feels authentic and their lives much more complicated than the issue of “will they or won’t they end up together.” Harper’s parents are locked in a bitter divorce battle. Her mother wants Harper to forego college and work with her in her newly acquired bed and breakfast. But Harper is passionate about photography and wants to pursue it in college and beyond. Meantime, her boyfriend Kennedy is controlling and emotionally abusive. If she does something he doesn’t approve of, he gives her the silent treatment until he decides she’s worthy of being “forgiven.” When she finally breaks up with him, he tries hard to sabotage her work as yearbook photographer.
Brody has his own challenges. His closest friend has just come out, and Brody worries about defending him from any haters. Meantime, Brody has his sights set on playing football in college and beyond, but one more serious concussion could mean the end of his lifelong dream. As for his girlfriend Grace, she drinks too much and seems much more interested in the hot college surfer guys in their Florida beach town than in having any sort of a meaningful relationship with Brody.
In addition to physical attraction, what draws Brody and Harper together is their genuine respect and caring for one another. Harper is no wuss ready to drop everything to see Brody. She has pictures to take and a career to build—and besides, she likes her alone time. If he wants to spend the day with her, maybe he’ll have to carry her camera equipment and not talk to her in the middle of a shoot. And he’s more than up to the challenge.
Brody also cares about her. Even before they get together as a couple, he doesn’t hesitate to dash to her house to interrupt her parents’ screaming match.
By the end of the novel, we can’t help but find Brody endearing and Harper an appealing as well as empowered heroine. During the course of the novel, she manages to stand up to her father, her mother, and her ex-boyfriend Kennedy.
Besides, Harper’s romance with Brody is delicious to watch as it unfolds and grows. Long after I finished reading Perfect Couple, I was still thinking about them.
THE SUPERLATIVES: PERFECT COUPLE
By Jennifer Echols
301 pp. Simon Pulse $17.99