Past Perfect by Leila Sales

All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new. Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it….

Leila Sales’s second novel is a delight. A delight! I haven’t read her debut novel (although I will) but when I saw Past Perfect on Simon & Schuster’s GalleyGrab Newsletter, I started it immediately because it sounded awesome. I’m not a big historical buff, but I absolutely loved Past Perfect. It’s set during the summer as Chelsea works at Essex, a Colonial Village, and a lot of time is spent at the Village, with Chelsea in Colonial garb and I was really caught up in the costumes and the history of the place. History generally bores me (if you ask folks in school their least favourite lesson, history will be top, I promise you) but I found Past Perfect to not be too full on. Well, as not too full on as a novel can be set in a historical village. But it’s not as if Leila Sales gives us one big history lesson, far from it, and whatever is mentioned historically, it’s fully enjoyable and it’s vital to the plot.

Another sub-plot to Chelsea working at Essex is the rivalry between a fellow historical village, the Civil War Reenactment village (I had to go look that up, which tells me how crap my historical knowledge is), and I loved that. I found myself caught up in the War between the two villages and what would happen next. To make it just a bit more jucier, Chelsea goes and falls for Civil Warrior Dan. Which is wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Because, there’s no way someone who works at Essex can fall for someone working at Reenactmentland. It’s just not the done thing. Because they’re at War, people! I thought the War plot was inspired and it really helped the novel drive along and it really kept me hooked. I also thought Leila’s message that history isn’t really history, but that it’s still here, still breathing around us, to be an inspiring message, a very true message.

I really loved the characters. Chelsea narrates the novel and she’s an awesome character. I really, really liked her and she carried the book beautifully. She’s the kind of teen you’d want to be friends with and I loved her and her best friend Fiona. I loved they wanted to become ice-cream aficionados (and I was a bit gutted that they didn’t find a one that was a perfect 10!) and I was easily sucked in to the characters. Leila Sales is excellent at making her characters people we care about even when they do questionable things. I mean, despite what Chelsea does during the novel, I still wanted her to be happy and fix it. I thought Dan was fascinating, right from the first time we met him and I thought he sounded rather dreamy! I loved Chelsea’s parents, too. They’re a bit different to most teen parents (they’re there, for starters!) but also I loved their passion for Essex, their passion for Colonial times and I found myself, along with Chelsea, rolling my eyes when her father started a story that was totally brilliant (to him, only, mind you).

Past Perfect was an awesome read. Everything about it was excellent. I love the title, I love the cover (the cover is STUNNING, folks), I love the plot and the characters. It was a super-quick read and it really made me smile. That’s what I like with books, that they make me happy and Past Perfect did that perfectly (sorry, I know that’s an obvious pun). It’s an excellent teen novel with a wonderful message. I can’t wait to go back and read Leila’s debut novel and hopefully she’s currently working on her third novel. I may have only read one of her novels, but she’s got an excellent ability of writing about teenage characters we care about and a plot that I truly loved. I could have read more about Chelsea, about Essex, about Fiona, about Dan and I was sad, in a way, to see it come to an end because it was such fun being with them during their summer. I hugely recommend Past Perfect, it was a brilliant, brilliant read.

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