Saturday, December 13, 2014

Book Blitz and Giveaway: No Such Thing as Perfect by Sarah Daltry

No Such Thing as Perfect by Sarah Daltry
Publication date: December 11th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult


College was supposed to be perfect. She was supposed to be perfect.

For Lily Drummond, life is about following the rules. To be specific, her mother’s rules. College fit into the plan – maintainperfect grades, date the perfect guy, and live the perfect life. On her own, though, Lily realizes that she doesn’t actually have a plan. Without being told what to think and do, she keeps making mistakes.

Away from home, the perfect facade is beginning to shatter. When Lily herself starts to break, it’s the support of an unlikely friend that teaches her how much of a lie perfect really is – and how to be whole on her own terms.

No Such Thing as Perfect was inspired by Sarah's Flowering series, but it stands completely alone as its own title. The same characters appear and some situations are similar, but this was written with a different goal in mind. There is NO on-camera sex in this novel and it is not a "romance" novel by most standards, but a story of growing up and being okay with who you are. 

Excerpt 1

I make it through the week otherwise unscathed. All my work is done, I seem to be maybe becoming friends with Kristen, and Derek’s on his way up to campus. I’ve been pacing for the better part of an hour.
“You need to relax,” Kristen says. “What could go wrong?”
For people who don’t need things in their places, it’s easy to relax. If something goes awry, it can always be fixed later. For people like me, though, everything can always go wrong. When I can’t control it, I panic. It’s the only thing I know how to do.
“What if something’s happened?” I ask for the third time. He was supposed to be here an hour ago.
“Nothing happened. He hit traffic, I bet.”
“But why didn’t he call?”
“Because he’s an idiot. Now sit down and stop pacing. You’re making me nervous.”
There’s a scuff on the toe of my shoes, so I do sit down. I scrub at it, but it won’t come out; my attempts end up making it worse, so now the entire toe is dirty. “I look like hell,” I tell Kristen.
“You look fine – just like you have for the last few hours when you’ve asked. How long have you been dating again?”
“Ten months.”
“Ten months, and you think he’s going to show up having not seen you in a week and realize he must have been crazy?” she asks.
“It’s just… he’s the only boyfriend I’ve ever had.”
How do I tell her about Rebecca Ellison, about Heather Yost, about Jill Pevarski, about Gina Frey, about all the girls Derek’s dated? How do I explain that nothing ever seemed to happen, that one day he was with them and then one day he wasn’t? How do I make her see that I’ve only wanted him and he fits into the puzzle and that I don’t have a backup plan?
“Never mind. Can I borrow your shoes? The black ones you wore yesterday?”
Kristen shakes her head and jumps down off her bed. “Lily, none of it matters. If Derek doesn’t want you, you’re good enough without him.”
Good enough is not good enough, I think. No one wants good enough. I don’t say anything, though, but I take the shoes and change them. There’s no sign of the scuff. Nothing is out of place, nothing out of order.
Excerpt 2
The glow-in-the-dark stars look pathetic in the darkness. There are only about twelve and they don’t look like the night sky; instead they look like they got lost in the black and can’t find their way back to light.
Derek’s snoring, having fallen asleep quickly, but I can’t stop thinking. My mind is doing that thing it does when I overanalyze and make problems where there aren’t any and I want to turn it off. I want to be happy with my boyfriend’s arm draped over my body. I want the closeness to feel like it should.
Maybe I read too many books. I guess I always thought being in love would feel comfortable. It’s not that Derek doesn’t try, but sometimes I’m so afraid. If he pauses too long when I ask him if something looks okay or if his upper lip twitches like it does sometimes when I do something wrong, I can’t escape the doubt. Worry is like an endless ocean and my arms are just too tired to keep swimming.
I slip out from under his arm and head to the bathroom. I don’t really have to go, but lying in the dark room isn’t putting my mind at ease and so I pace the hall. The lights flicker, poor illumination because they’re an afterthought; dorm halls aren’t somewhere people spend their time. I consider going to find Kristen, or texting Abby even though I know she’s in some foreign city and it will cost too much and she’s probably doing amazing things. I even consider calling my parents to admit something is broken in me. But I can already hear the arguments. I’m fine. Everything is fine.
“Scottie dogs? What a fashion statement.”
Jack’s coming out of the elevator, carrying a guitar case. I almost start to cry knowing someone is seeing me like this.
“Sorry. I was just…” I look around. I wasn’t just anything. I’m standing in the dim hallway by the elevator in the middle of the night wearing my pajamas.
“Yeah, I was just…, too,” he says. “Want some coffee? I hear the lounge is lovely at this hour. There’s all the Styrofoam a lady could desire.”
“I-” I’m about to tell him I have a boyfriend, that I can’t just drink coffee with him, but that’s dumb. What’s wrong with coffee? Derek’s asleep, I’m restless, and it’s just coffee. It certainly beats standing around by the elevator trying not to cry. “Sure. Coffee sounds good.”
“Awesome. Let me just drop this off and grab some, okay?” He gestures to his guitar case and I follow him. He’s just down the hall – in the guys’ wing – and I make mental note of his room number. I don’t know why I do, but it’s etched on my brain before I realize what I’m doing. 401. Jack in 401.
“Did your roommate go home for the weekend?” I ask. He opens the door, tosses his case into a dark room, rummages loudly and knocks something over, and closes it again, coffee in hand.
“I don’t have a roommate.”
“Oh. I didn’t know there were singles here.”
He stops and looks at his door, then down at his shoes. “It’s… a long story. Anyway, coffee?” When he looks up, there’s a distinct change in his expression. It’s pain wrapped in fear of acknowledging it; I know the look well.
In the lounge, he makes coffee, but the machine is old and the water is from the fountain in the hall, so the coffee just tastes like heat. There is no flavor or pleasure in drinking it, except it’s warm and it’s quiet in the lounge. Jack is picking the Styrofoam cup apart as he drains it. I don’t know why it feels like normal. I thought I knew normal, but suddenly this feels like what it should have been all along.
“So you’re not a freshman?” I ask.
“Your major?”
“Game Design. And you’re English.”
“How’d you know?”
He’s finished turning the cup into pieces and he swaps the pile between his palms, looking at me the entire time. His eyes have danced through every human emotion in the few short interactions we’ve had. I didn’t know anyone had the kind of depth I see in them.
“Lucky guess. Plus you’ve read Sense and Sensibility several times, which seems like an English major thing to do,” he says.
“Yet you know the character names,” I point out.
“Yeah, but I’m not…” He shakes his head. I don’t know what the sentence was supposed to end with, but he’s not continuing. “Besides, you came out of Joliet Hall, which is Humanities. I suppose you could just be taking a lit class, but it seemed a decent guess.”
“Well, you’re right. I’m predictable,” I say.

Excerpt 3
“I was thinking of trying out for the school play,” I told my parents at dinner. Jon looked at me and rolled his eyes, but he didn’t say anything.
“That sounds great, honey,” my dad said, but my mom’s face grew tight. I knew I had said something wrong, although I didn’t know what was wrong with school plays.
“Is that okay, Mom?” I asked.
She didn’t answer right away, her knife growing faster as she cut her chicken. I wanted her to nod, to say she’d be proud, but her lips were pinched and she finally sighed, dropping the silverware loudly against the plate. I felt the crashing in my skin, the sound of being wrong bleeding in my veins.
“Lily, you have a lot of responsibilities. I just can’t understand why you would want to sacrifice your grades and what you’ve worked for. Have you even thought this through?” she asked.
“They said rehearsals are from 3-5 a few days a week. I can still go to NHS and Student Council meetings and I already asked Coach Hillary about alternating.”
“And when are you going to do your homework? Between running, workouts, your clubs, and learning lines, you don’t think your grades will slip?”
I looked at my brother, who was eating and not paying attention. He played sports, but he barely passed his classes. No one cared. He never needed to study. He was always out with his friends and my mother bragged about him endlessly, especially when he started dating Brianna Graves. She couldn’t get enough of telling him how great Brianna was. Brianna, the valedictorian cheerleader who had no flaws. Brianna, who came over after school when my parents weren’t around and locked herself in my brother’s room with him, doing things I always found out about later when it filtered back to me through gossip. Things that led to her and Jon skipping school to go to a clinic out of town where they could pay someone to make sure no one else knew that they weren’t perfect.
“I’m a junior. You won’t let me work. It’s only a few hours a week. I can ask for a small part,” I argued.
“And what’s the point then?” my mother snapped. “You’re going to sacrifice for what? To get five minutes on stage? Do what you like, Lily, but I’m not going to sit there and pretend to be proud that you’re an elf. If I thought you could handle a leading role, I might consider it, but you know what you’ll do. It will all end up being too much and then you’ll be here one night crying that you can’t keep up with everything. I just don’t want to hear it when you screw this up.”
That was the end of the conversation, as far as she was concerned, although I did go to auditions. I practiced for two weeks after everyone was in bed, memorizing the monologue I’d found online. But on the day of auditions, I sat in the back of the auditorium. The girls were all so much more talented than I was, full of confidence and sure that they belonged on stage. They all knew they had something to say and that someone wanted to listen.
I was the last person to go. I waited until the end and all I could think about was how I wouldn’t be able to get it right, how I’d forget the lines, how I would make a mistake and everyone would laugh. But when they called my name, I walked up on stage and pretended it didn’t terrify me. The lights drilled their ghostly white through my skull and the kids directing were only fuzzy shapes, orbs of flickering color surrounded by faded darkness. My throat was dry, my tongue too big and stuck to the roof of my mouth. We weren’t given anything but a stool, which I leaned on to stop the vertigo. But then I paused and breathed and I looked at the words in my shaking hand.
Inside the words, I could hide. I could become and the stage lights reminded me of what had sparked the desire in the first place. Becoming – not acting, not pretending, but becoming. That was what this was for me. And as I shed myself, a girl spoke… and everyone listened.

Excerpt 4

There are only two reasons people in town come here, to the hill that looks over the river, and neither has to do with the way that the sun glares off the ruins of the factories that built, and eventually ruined, our town. One reason is to have sex, and Derek and I know the area well. We’ve spent many evenings, and some afternoons, up here, when my parents were at home or Jon was or he just wanted to do something different. It’s not romantic, but it’s secluded because it used to belong to the factories and now only the ghosts of those lives remain.
The other reason people come up here seems inexplicably linked to that history. It’s oddly both a place where couples go to be together – and also to grow apart. Throughout high school, almost everyone broke up with someone here, like there is pressure in the air that you need permanence to exist in such a place and, without it, you realize there is little worth clinging to in your relationship.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said,” Derek starts, “about transferring.”
I turn in the backseat of his car to face him. The weather is still insisting on summer regardless of the calendar and I’m sticky and warm. Derek turned the car off when we arrived and now, in a barely acceptable state of undress, I’m trying to find my underwear and he’s looking out the window at the river.
“Good, I wanted to talk about that,” I say. I find my panties somehow between two soda bottles and an old CD under the passenger seat. It was over before it even started, like requisite physical interaction without meaning. “I mean, I like Bristol. I guess I would love it eventually, but it’s hard to be in two places at once. I feel stuck between home and school.” He doesn’t say in anything in response, but as soon as I say the words, “I think I’d be better off somewhere familiar, with you and Jon,” he says the words I’ve dreaded since he acknowledged me for the first time.
“That’s why I think we should probably take a break,” he says.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s just…” He pauses and cracks the window open more, but the suffocating air isn’t because of the heat. I need to fix this. I can’t screw this up. This is the only thing I’ve been able to keep intact, besides my schoolwork, and I can’t just take tests and write papers for the rest of my life. “Look, Lily, I really enjoy spending time with you, but I like my freedom, too. Some of the rugby guys have been talking about renting a house and I feel like I’m trapped in this relationship with you, like I have to pass everything by you first,” he says.
“I’ve never asked you for anything,” I argue.
“Not exactly, but you need me and it’s a little annoying.”
I don’t know what to say, because I should have seen this coming, I suppose. Instead of saying anything, though, I stare out my own window. The closest factory’s windows have all been shattered and plants hopelessly try to grow through the damage. It’s more depressing than if there was nothing there but ruin. Watching the life try to continue after everyone else has moved on just makes me think it’s all futile. When we outlive our purpose, we should disappear. No one needs a reminder that they’ve failed.

Excerpt 5
Rocks were complicated. I wouldn’t have thought so, but I’d studied for weeks because there were just too many kinds of rocks. I didn’t understand all the variations in rocks and how they were formed, but I kept making the flashcards. It didn’t stick, but I didn’t have much of a choice. I had never done poorly on anything. I was only ten, but rocks would be the death of me. 
‘Explain the difference between slate and shale.’ I’d stared at the question for half the exam. I had been almost certain one was sedimentary, but I didn’t know which – and the other could have been anything. I knew these had to have been in my notes and on my flashcards, but after a while, the words became little dancing letters on the page, as sensible as if the question had asked me about folk art of the indigenous people on Neptune. They were words – something that had always been reliable – but these words were going to ruin me and I couldn’t make sense of them.
It didn’t surprise me, of course, when Mr. Grunyan came to my desk with my test paper folded over. We all knew what that fold meant. When you did well, no one hid the results. They were displayed in massive red ink next to a sticker, but when you failed… well, the hidden number or letter didn’t matter because we all knew what the fold meant.
“You made a mistake,” I said when he handed it to me, his eyes sad because I tried hard. I wasn’t the kind of student a teacher wanted to see struggle, because I did my work and I paid attention and I never complained. But being polite doesn’t mean you know shit about rocks.
“I’m sorry,” he said and I believed him. The apology wasn’t going to fix it, though. There, under the dreaded crease, was something I only imagined from books I’d read. At ten-years-old, you don’t expect to see an F on a test, especially when you study. Three red scratches, but they were three scratches that screamed, ‘you’re not perfect.’ And that wasn’t an option.
“But-” I couldn’t argue, though. I had wasted the exam time on shale and slate and left a bunch of answers blank and even several of the ones I did fill out were wrong. I had failed.
Failure was an abstract concept. I knew to fear it. I knew it meant I wasn’t good enough and I knew that it would be some kind of record of that imperfection, but having never experienced it, I didn’t really understand it. You only failed if you didn’t try, if you didn’t work hard enough, but to fail when you had done everything you could was something you could feel in your soul. Every doubt inside your head was confirmed in that one letter, because you knew someday you wouldn’t be able to keep up and there it was, laid out like a bleeding injury on a white test page.



Sarah Daltry is a varied author, known best for the contemporary New Adult series, 'Flowering', a six-title series that explores the complexities of relationships, including how we survive the damage from our pasts with the support of those who love us. Although the books are no longer in print, they are being rewritten and redeveloped for future publication. Please visit Sarah's website for more details.

As a former English teacher and YA library coordinator, Sarah has always loved Young Adult literature and 'Dust', an epic fantasy novel where romance blends with the blood and grit of war, is her second official foray into YA, following the gamer geek romantic comedy, 'Backward Compatible'. Most of Sarah's work is about teens and college students, as it's what she knows well.

Sarah's passion in life is writing - weaving tales of magic and beauty. The modern and vast social networking world is an alternative universe that she makes infrequent trips to, but when she does, readers will find her attentive, friendly and happy to discuss the magic of stories and reading. Please stop by and say hello anywhere Sarah is online! You can find these places at

Sarah has moved back and forth between independent and traditional publishing. Her first novel, 'Bitter Fruits', is with Escape, an imprint of Harlequin Australia, and she signed with Little Bird Publishing in the spring of 2014.
Sarah has also written 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,' a reimagining of one of her favorite poems in a contemporary setting.

She is an obsessive Anglophile who spends more time watching BBC TV than any human being should, as well as a hardcore gamer and sarcastic nerd.

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