“You Asked for Perfect” by Laura Silverman— Meet Ariel Stone

Silverman, Laura. “You Asked for Perfect”, Sourcebooks Fire,  2019.

Meet Ariel Stone

Amos Lassen

Lau­ra Silverman’s nov­el about high­ly pres­sured over­achiev­ing teens, “You Asked for Perfect” centers onHigh school senior Ariel Stone who is always read­ing “Crime and Pun­ish­ment”. He keeps iton his phone and reads it while he pre­tends to pray dur­ing Shab­bat ser­vices, or in audio­book for­mat as he quick­ly moves from one class or extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ty to anoth­er. Ariel feels a con­stant prox­im­i­ty to Dostoevsky’s moral­ly intense clas­sic that has been assigned read­ing for his A.P. Eng­lish class because the book is the per­fect sym­bol of his end­less quest for per­fec­tion. There is no down time for Ariel;  hr dedicates all of his time to the man­ic pur­suit of excel­lence and to admis­sion by Har­vard. He is Jew­ish and bisex­u­al ad writer Silverman explores both of these aspects of his life with sen­si­tiv­i­ty and real­ism. Ariel is Every­man or Every­teen, who tries to attain a goal whose very mean­ing has Written for young adult read­ers, he is a rec­og­nizable and embracable character. The nov­el is full of details which bring him to life. We read of the cat­a­logue of A.P. cours­es and their rel­a­tive dif­fi­cul­ty as well as descrip­tions of his lov­ing father, a civil rights attorney and moth­er, a  jour­nal­ist. They are com­plete­ly accept­ing of his sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, yet at the same time, unaware of their son’s anguish every time they men­tion that he is apply­ing to Har­vard.

The characters in the nov­el are mul­ti­cul­tur­al— from Ariel’s Kore­an-Amer­i­can best friend, a les­bian musi­cian, to his love inter­est, Amir, the son of a Pak­istani-Amer­i­can fam­i­ly that is as close as Ariel’s own. We touch upon the com­plex­i­ty of reli­gious and eth­nic iden­ti­ties with the Stone family’s Judaism not eas­i­ly cat­e­go­rized. Like many Amer­i­can Jews, they pick and choose from their tra­di­tion, find­ing their own way with­out a sug­ges­tion of hypocrisy. Ariel’s fam­i­ly almost always spends Fri­day evening togeth­er with a Shabbat meal, bless­ing the can­dles and wine, and r mat­zo ball soup. Lat­er, Ariel and his friends might enjoy a sec­ond meal at a Thai restau­rant. There is a ref­er­ence to the fact that Amir’s sis­ter, Rasha, wears a hijab, although their moth­er does not and this also grounds the nov­el in chang­ing reli­gious prac­tices across cultures.

We wonder if Ariel will indeed main­tain his sta­tus as vale­dic­to­ri­an, but grad­u­al­ly become aware, along with Ariel him­self, that his psy­che is coming apart and may not sur­vive. We offer our empa­thy. Ariel is open to help from Rab­bi Solomon, a per­cep­tive and kind woman who offers him Tal­mu­dic wis­dom and man­del­bread when he is about to faint on Yom Kip­pur. Ariel is a  mentsch  who is trapped by “…good grades will get me into a good school. And a good school will get me a good job. And a good job will get me a good life.” I was totally into Ariel’s quest for per­fec­tion and in his  awak­en­ing to his imper­fect sense of self-worth.

 

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