A sweeping coming of age romance set against the backdrop of Cairo, In a Perfect World by Trish Doller is as luscious and satisfying to read as it is poignant and timely.
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 obsessed with this book, ya’ll. Reading it was a constant struggle between wanting to slowly savor every moment, and racing through to find out what happens next. (If you know me, it should come to no surprise that I raced through it. My desire to know what happens next always, always wins. I’m not good with the slow savoring read.) Here’s just a taste of what I loved about In a Perfect World:
1. The setting is so fantastic. Cairo has become such a romanticized place in fiction, and while Doller does bring some of that idealized version of the city to life — she’s also quick to contrast it with reality. Cairo is beautiful, but it is hot. There are exotic and stunning parts of the city; there are also slums where running water and electricity don’t exist. There is also the threat of violence; there are bombings and attacks. The culture is shockingly different, and women are often treated unfairly – but there are also new friends and foods and activities and places to see.
2. Swoon. Yep, let’s talk about this romance. With the culture clash, it feels almost like a forbidden romance – but the emotions between Caroline and Adam are so palpable and real and genuine, and they develop naturally – both slowly and all at once. It’s a slow burn that is so satisfying to witness, and yet heartbreaking because their situation is not an easy one. I was just so happy to be swept up in their story, and spend time in their little world, and ahhhh, I could do it all over again.
3. Doller does an amazing job of telling a story that is timely and pertinent to our world today, without it ever feeling like the book has a heavy-handed message. It’s just naturally part of the story – the fears many Americans have regarding the Middle East; the biases and stereotypes that feed into our assumptions about another culture. Understanding privilege and the guilt that can be associated with it. Stepping outside of your comfort zone – and the risks and rewards that can come about as a result.
I could go on and on about this book, but it really is just a sweep-you-off-your feet story filled with romance and rich cultures and gutting realities about the world we live in; it’s aching and beautiful and I really hope you’ll read it.
In a Perfect World is in stores now.