Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Internment Chronicles #1
Published by Simon & Schuster on October 1st, 2013
Shelve It: Goodreads
On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 16-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan’s older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.
Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.
With an eclectic mix of old-fashioned ideals and modern technological advances, Perfect Ruin took a while for me to become comfortable with it. Once I got over the strange juxtaposition of the old with the new, and Perfect Ruin found its stride, I couldn’t put it down! While there were some world-building hiccups, and the protagonist wasn’t the most intelligent of narrators, I found myself slowly growing to love the world of Internment. With a rather sizeable and surprising twist, leaving the cliffhanger of all cliffhangers in its wake, and DeStefano’s flowery prose, I can definitely say that Perfect Ruin was well worth the read!
Whether it was my overall discomfort with the seemingly chaotic mix of old-fashioned ideals and futuristic technological advances, the slightly slow start, or my initial dislike of Perfect Ruin’s rather naive and sheltered protagonist, Morgan, it took quite a few chapters for Perfect Ruin to fully grasp my attention. As I began to better understand Interment, its history, and the beliefs of its inhabitants, my fascination with this subculture only grew; especially when compared to The Chemical Garden trilogy, I think DeStefano has done a wonderful job of fleshing out the world of Internment. It definitely didn’t hurt that DeStefano is able to capture the most mundane moments, like riding the train to school, in the most beautiful ways:
The evening sun catches every bolt and scrap of metal on the train, and for an instant we are suspended in an atmosphere of stars.
Even though I would have loved for a map to have been included in the hardcover copy of Perfect Ruin, the level of detail provided was sufficient for me to create my own mental map of Internment and the places Morgan most often frequented.
While I would argue that the world-building in Perfect Ruin was much better than in any of The Chemical Garden trilogy’s books, it sill left something to be desired. I found it strange that the inhabitants of Internment would spend any time studying the inhabitants of the ground, when it was considered to be almost treasonous to want to visit Internment’s edges. Why encourage the study of a culture of beings with whom you are forbidden of interacting with? Especially when for some, the ground becomes a deadly fixation so tempting that they attempt to hurl themselves over the edge of Internment. These “Jumpers” have no hopes of reaching the ground, the wind surrounding Internment is so strong they’re flung backwards, and they are left scarred in various ways: for Morgan’s brother, he was left blind; for the young girl, Amy, she was left with epilepsy. Why the injuries are different is never explained. How the Jumpers get close enough to the edge to jump, with such strong winds, is never explained. How the inhabitants of Internment function at all, with such seemingly high winds, is also never explained. It’s these kind of holes in the world-building that needed a little tidying, but for the most part, I was able to overlook.
Morgan wasn’t my favourite protagonist, but she grew on me in unexpected ways. While I found her naiveté and close-minded worldview slightly exasperating at times, it made her “irrational” thoughts all the more scandalous. Her fascination with the ground, and her fears about being found to be irrational, weren’t really things I could empathize with, and I quickly grew tired of how often she would chastise herself for having such treasonous thoughts. I loved that she confided in Basil, though, and that he reacted with love and compassion. While I wouldn’t say that Basil was a well-developed character, I really enjoyed watching her relationship with Basil blossom; from the awkwardness of their first kiss to their declarations of love, I found the entire progression of their romance to be believable. I was definitely concerned that their betrothal would mean a serious case of insta-luv, but they seemed to genuinely enjoy the comfort they found in each other’s arms. On the other hand, her fascination with Judas and her adamancy that he was innocent were two things I just couldn’t understand. Her reasons for trusting Judas were flimsy, at best, and she risked much more than a slap on the wrist were she to be caught helping him.
As Perfect Ruin reached the halfway point, I found myself becoming less and less inclined to set it down. With a murder-mystery to solve, some suspicious government officials handing out some pretty overt threats, and rumours of a rebellion forming beneath the King’s watchful eye, I just had to see how it would all culminate! While I didn’t see the twist coming, which I appreciated for it’s shock-value, it also meant that Morgan was in the dark about much of Internment’s dirty little secrets. This meant that, unfortunately, most of the information she was given was handed out in one, info dumpy-esque, conversation. Once that was out of the way, however, the plot quickly resumed it’s breakneck pace, taking us into a cliffhanger that has me desperate for the sequel!
While not without it’s faults, I really enjoyed Perfect Ruin. Once it found its stride, the pacing was wonderful and the twists and turns kept me in suspense. And much like the inhabitants of Internment were enamoured of the ground, I was infatuated with this floating city in the sky.