Past Perfect Life
Small-town Wisconsin high school senior Allison Smith loves her life the way it is-spending quality time with her widowed father and her tight-knit circle of friends, including best friend Marian and maybe-more-than-friends Neil. Sure she is stressed out about college applications . . . who wouldn't be? In a few short months, everything's going to change, big time.But when Ally files her applications, they send up a red flag . . . because she's not Allison Smith. And Ally's-make that Amanda's-ordinary life is suddenly blown apart. Was everything before a lie? Who will she be after? And what will she do as now comes crashing down around her?

Past Perfect Life Details

TitlePast Perfect Life
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 9th, 2019
PublisherBloomsbury YA
ISBN-139781547600922
Rating
GenreYoung Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Fiction

Past Perfect Life Review

  • OutlawPoet
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of those books that has absolutely no surprises.Everything happens exactly as you expect it will. People behave the way you expect. It ends the way you expect.Despite the tough subject matter, it's a feel good book. Our main character has such a community around her that even in her darkest hours, you're pretty sure that nothing ever will get to the point of dismally tragic.I liked every one of the characters. One I thought I might not like ended up just fine.You might tear up once o This is one of those books that has absolutely no surprises.Everything happens exactly as you expect it will. People behave the way you expect. It ends the way you expect.Despite the tough subject matter, it's a feel good book. Our main character has such a community around her that even in her darkest hours, you're pretty sure that nothing ever will get to the point of dismally tragic.I liked every one of the characters. One I thought I might not like ended up just fine.You might tear up once or twice, but you'll ultimately feel good about reading this one.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.I discovered Elizabeth Eulberg a couple years ago and she quickly became one of my favorite YA Contemporary authors. I really can’t believe that more people aren’t talking about her books. Past Perfect Life was another of her books that I finished in one day.Ally lives in a small town with her father and her biggest problem is coming up with a decent topic for her college application/scholarship application essay questio I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.I discovered Elizabeth Eulberg a couple years ago and she quickly became one of my favorite YA Contemporary authors. I really can’t believe that more people aren’t talking about her books. Past Perfect Life was another of her books that I finished in one day.Ally lives in a small town with her father and her biggest problem is coming up with a decent topic for her college application/scholarship application essay questions. She has a tight-knit group of friends and a great relationship with her father. That is, until her college applications are kicked back for having an invalid social security number. I feel like you can probably already guess what happens based off of the clues in the synopsis, but I kind of find it impossible to review this book without disclosing what happens, so if you really don’t want to know, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***. Turns out, Ally Smith is not her real name and her mother didn’t really die when she was three. When her father was afraid of losing partial custody of her, he fled with her and they have been living under false identities ever since.This isn’t the first YA book I’ve read with this topic, but I thought it was well done. A lot of time is dedicated to Ally’s mental and emotional state around the discovery and then as she tries to adjust to her new life. We also see how it effects the friends she’s forced to leave behind and the new family she never knew existed who have been mourning her loss for the past fifteen years. I really loved Ally’s friends, the extended Gleason family, especially adorable Neil. I also really liked Ally’s step-father. I thought he handled the situation better than anyone else and was overall pretty amazing. I have to say I really didn’t care for Ally’s mother. I know that she’s been through a lot, but I thought she handled everything really poorly, right up until the end, which I thought was just a tad too easy and abrupt. I really could have used an epilogue.I definitely need to mention Eulberg’s writing. She has such an addictive writing style that compels me to keep reading, even when I had decided I was going to set the book down to do something else. I certainly didn’t mean to finish this book in one day, but that’s exactly what happened because I just had to keep reading.Overall, I really enjoyed Past Perfect Life. Though it was a heavier read than Eulberg’s other books I’ve read, I thought it was well done. The topic was interesting and Ally’s character development was really well done. I liked the cute romance with Neil and the really addictive writing. I definitely recommend that Contemporary fans check this out, as well as some of Eulberg’s other books.Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars
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  • Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
    January 1, 1970
    This is the first book I've read by Eulberg and I know that I'll be reading her again in the future! The story was just so heartfelt. Ally has a normal life up until she starts applying for college. That's when she finds out that her father kidnapped her as a child and she's thrust into this new world. Her name isn't her real name. She has a family and that family wants to get to know her. But, her whole life is torn apart.I found the whole story extremely heartbreaking. Not just for the MC, but This is the first book I've read by Eulberg and I know that I'll be reading her again in the future! The story was just so heartfelt. Ally has a normal life up until she starts applying for college. That's when she finds out that her father kidnapped her as a child and she's thrust into this new world. Her name isn't her real name. She has a family and that family wants to get to know her. But, her whole life is torn apart.I found the whole story extremely heartbreaking. Not just for the MC, but also her father, her mother, her half-sister, her friends. It was so hard to read for that reason. But, it was also such a great story. I loved how it ended because it fit perfectly for the whole story. In the end, it was a very good book that I'd recommend! One of the YA Book of the Month picks you can get!
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  • Ms. Yingling
    January 1, 1970
    E ARC from Edelweiss PlusAlly's life in a small Wisconsin town hasn't been perfect, but she's happy. Her father works in construction, and sometimes things are financially difficult, but she's applying for college scholarships and has a good chance of attending a state university, since she's always done well in school. Her best friend, Marian, is from the biggest family in town, so Ally has built in "cousins" and even a grandma. As her 18th birthday approaches, she may even have a boyfriend in E ARC from Edelweiss PlusAlly's life in a small Wisconsin town hasn't been perfect, but she's happy. Her father works in construction, and sometimes things are financially difficult, but she's applying for college scholarships and has a good chance of attending a state university, since she's always done well in school. Her best friend, Marian, is from the biggest family in town, so Ally has built in "cousins" and even a grandma. As her 18th birthday approaches, she may even have a boyfriend in Neil, but things start to go wrong. Her father is arrested... for kidnapping her when she was three. The two are separated and not even allowed to talk, Ally has to move in with Marian's family, and her long lost mother is determined to visit her. Ally is angry with her father, but also misses him, and just wants to stay with Marian and the people in town who are fending off reporters for her. When her mother, Paula, arrives, she is relieved to see Ally (whom she calls Amanda), and demands that she come back and live with her, her husband, and her ten year old daughter in Florida. Since Ally is actually NOT 18 (her age was another thing her father lied about), she has to go. Paula lives in a much nicer house and buys Ally lots of clothes and a new cell phone, and makes a great effort to spend time with Ally and make sure her life is perfect. But it's not, and Paula can't understand why Ally would rather be back in Wisconsin with her friends. Ally's young sister is also very upset, since she has had to live her whole live in the shadow of Ally's disappearance. After Marian and Neil visit Florida, Ally has to decide if she will continue to try to work things out, or return to her regularly scheduled life.Strengths: Secretly and occasionally, I think every middle grade reader imagines life with other parents, or thinks that surely they are really someone else! I loved that Ally had a great life with her dad and the two were close, playing games and having Taco Tuesdays. The father's backstory of why he kidnapped her was also very effective. The step father was also great-- he really understood want Ally was going through and really tried to help. The sister's reaction was realistic. The small Wisconsin town and the Gleason family were delightful as well. Eulberg is right up there with Smith, Dessen, West and Colasanti for high school books that cross over well to middle school.Weaknesses: There are two f-bombs, but they are used in times of crisis. The mother comes off very badly; I almost wish she were a bit more sympathetic so that Ally's choice was a little harder to make. What I really think: Definitely purchasing. I'm not happy about the language, but I have a desperate need for books just like this for some of my advanced 8th grade readers-- they want more high school drama and romance. Aside from the two f-bombs, this is circumspect in behaviors and otherwise very middle grade appropriate. This is sort of a The Face on the Milk Carton (Cooney, 1990) for a new generation. It was a great way for me to wile away a sunny afternoon!
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  • Liza Wiemer
    January 1, 1970
    This may very well be my favorite Elizabeth Eulberg novel, and that says a lot! Allison Smith lives with her widowed dad and their relationship is sweet, caring, and loving. It's what most people would hope for between daughters and their fathers. But not everything is as it appears. Loved the Wisconsin setting and all the Green Bay Packer references. The fascinating family dynamics will keep you turning the pages. Elizabeth captures small-town Wisconsin beautifully, and readers will fall in lov This may very well be my favorite Elizabeth Eulberg novel, and that says a lot! Allison Smith lives with her widowed dad and their relationship is sweet, caring, and loving. It's what most people would hope for between daughters and their fathers. But not everything is as it appears. Loved the Wisconsin setting and all the Green Bay Packer references. The fascinating family dynamics will keep you turning the pages. Elizabeth captures small-town Wisconsin beautifully, and readers will fall in love with the tight-knit clan of Ally's best friend, Marian. Loyalty, friendship, family, love, lies, and truth make this novel hard to put down!
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  • Samantha (WLABB)
    January 1, 1970
    A secret from Ally's past had caught up with her, which drastically altered her life, and threatened to derail her future.I am going to apologize up front for being vague, but it is too easy to give away the plot here, and I liked when my suspicions were confirmed. It was a good gasp worthy moment for me, and I want you to have that too. Therefore, I will share as much as I think I can without spoiling anything."Two truths and a lie?""I'm angry. I'm scared. My life."• My emotions! I will admit, A secret from Ally's past had caught up with her, which drastically altered her life, and threatened to derail her future.I am going to apologize up front for being vague, but it is too easy to give away the plot here, and I liked when my suspicions were confirmed. It was a good gasp worthy moment for me, and I want you to have that too. Therefore, I will share as much as I think I can without spoiling anything."Two truths and a lie?""I'm angry. I'm scared. My life."• My emotions! I will admit, my emotions were all over the place as I read this book. I was definitely channeling Ally at times, because I felt mad, hurt, sad, empty, frustrated, happy, and swoony. I would definitely say, that Eulberg did an amazing job conveying the emotions of the characters in this book. • Found family - It was just Ally and her dad, but she was lucky enough to be "adopted" by her best friend Marian, who came from a HUGE family. They were her de facto family, and when push came to shove, they stood up for her and stood by her side. • An adorable romance - Right before her life imploded, Ally finally declared her feelings for her long time crush. The two of them together were utterly precious and so, so cute. My heart broke just thinking about them having to be apart, but that boy kept surprising me (and Ally) in the best ways. • Father-daughter bond - Ally and her dad shared something special, which I think is not too unusual when it comes to small families. I adored all their "theme nights", and their affection for each other was really beautiful. • Setting - Hello, Wisconsin! It was nice to be out in the midwest for a little change of pace, and Eulberg treated us to lots of weather, cheese, and Packers related anecdotes. I also loved their small town, and the way all the residents circled round to protect Ally. • Friendship - Ally was blessed with an incredible group of friends. Their lunch time follies were amusing, and I was really touched by their dedication to each other. This was an emotional and compelling read. I really tore through it, and though, I wish there was an epilogue, I was still left really hopeful for Ally and her family. *ARC provided in exchange for an honest review. BLOG | INSTAGRAM |TWITTER | BLOGLOVIN | FRIEND ME ON GOODREADS
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  • Madison
    January 1, 1970
    What would you do when you discover you’re not who you thought you were? A homage to home, friendship and family, Past Perfect Life delves into the questions of what family really means and what it takes to discover where you truly belong. With a strong female lead character who walks that balance between determined and flexible, cautious but brave, and a wonderful cast of secondary characters, Past Perfect Life is a compelling YA contemporary novel.Ally Smith’s life is turned inside out when, w What would you do when you discover you’re not who you thought you were? A homage to home, friendship and family, Past Perfect Life delves into the questions of what family really means and what it takes to discover where you truly belong. With a strong female lead character who walks that balance between determined and flexible, cautious but brave, and a wonderful cast of secondary characters, Past Perfect Life is a compelling YA contemporary novel.Ally Smith’s life is turned inside out when, while applying to college, has her social security number denied. She discovers her dad - the dad she loves spending time with, who is her best friend and rock - isn't who he said he was. Everything she thought she knew was a lie, but Ally isn’t so sure what to hang on to from her old life and what to embrace in her new one.Here are three things I really liked about this book. Ally. Her world is thrown into chaos, yet I thought Ally’s response to what she discovers about herself and her family was totally realistic and understandable - from the anger and the crying to the disbelief and uncertainty. She could have so easily deteriorated into simply a whiney character. Eulberg managed to walk that fine line and portray every believable emotion, without Ally becoming insufferable. Ally is brave, strong and understanding - there were seriously times I thought she did so well to bottle up her anger. I would have lost it. Ally’s friends. Ally has the most amazing group of friends that support and love her. My only complaint is that I would have loved to see more of them in the book, but I guess that wouldn’t have been necessary for the storyline. Their connections, shared humour and they way they so lovingly joked around and picked on each other, spoke of in-jokes, shared history and true affection for each other, which seeped through all their interactions and made their friendships so believable. I didn’t need to be told they were all best friends, I could feel it. And the romance develops out of friendship, so that made it perfect and just the sweetest thing ever.The ending. I was a little uncertain, as the story progressed and the ending neared, how the author would manage to bring everything together and give readers a satisfying conclusion. But that is exactly what she did, at the same time, driving home the messages of family, the importance of trust and love, and showing Ally to be the mature, kindhearted person she is.Past Perfect Life provides a thoroughly gratifying YA realistic fiction look at family, alongside sweet romance and wonderful examples of friendship. The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.Find more reviews, reading age guides, content advisory, and recommendations on my blog Madison's Library
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  • Stacee
    January 1, 1970
    I have read and enjoyed Elizabeth’s previous books and I loved the sound of this one. I liked Ally well enough. She’s had a huge things revealed to her and she’s handling it the best she can. I loved her friends and how supportive they were. The Florida family meant well and I did like how they strived to learn who Ally was. Her mom was sort of a struggle to read, but I could understand how she felt. Plot wise, I was expecting a little more of a mystery type thing. Everything is revealed pretty I have read and enjoyed Elizabeth’s previous books and I loved the sound of this one. I liked Ally well enough. She’s had a huge things revealed to her and she’s handling it the best she can. I loved her friends and how supportive they were. The Florida family meant well and I did like how they strived to learn who Ally was. Her mom was sort of a struggle to read, but I could understand how she felt. Plot wise, I was expecting a little more of a mystery type thing. Everything is revealed pretty quickly and while the aftermath is what the entire book is about, it felt like all telling. Scenes did get repetitive and characters did seem flat. Overall, it was a quick read, with characters I liked, but wish I could have gotten to know a bit better. **Huge thanks to Bloomsbury for providing the arc free of charge**
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  • PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 STARSWhat do you do when you learn your whole life is a lie? When even your name isn’t your name and your mother didn’t die when you were three and your dad has been lying to you your whole life?Ally discovers her real name is Amanda and that her mom didn’t really die when she was three. In fact, her mom Paula has been looking for Amanda for nearly fifteen years since the toddler’s father kidnapped her. Now jailed, her father admits to admits to his crimes, leaving Ally hurt and confused.PAS 3.5 STARSWhat do you do when you learn your whole life is a lie? When even your name isn’t your name and your mother didn’t die when you were three and your dad has been lying to you your whole life?Ally discovers her real name is Amanda and that her mom didn’t really die when she was three. In fact, her mom Paula has been looking for Amanda for nearly fifteen years since the toddler’s father kidnapped her. Now jailed, her father admits to admits to his crimes, leaving Ally hurt and confused.PAST PERFECT LIFE was one of my most anticipated books of the year, but didn’t meet my high expectations. While Elizabeth Eulberg’s word building was highly readable, Ally’s story seemed more told than experienced. I never viscerally felt her shock and pain. The main characters lacked dimension and felt like characters more than people and switched attitudes without natural progression. I adored the Gleason, Ally’s grandmother and stepfather who all felt authentic and grew to love Sarah although she didn’t feel as real. I had a harder time embracing Ally, but intellectually understood her struggles.PAST PERFECT LIFE is a satisfying, but imperfect story.
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  • Forever Young Adult
    January 1, 1970
    Graded By: StephanieCover Story: Monopoly House DestructionBFF Charm: Big SisterSwoonworthy Scale: 3Talky Talk: LightweightBonus Factors: Wisconsin, Awesome StepdadsAnti-Bonus Factor: Awful GrownupsRelationship Status: OnlookerRead the full book report here.
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  • Sara (A Gingerly Review)
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars rounded upThis story was such a powerhouse of emotions. I could not stop thinking about it and what I would do if I were in Ally's position. Highly recommend to everyone.Frtc*Huge thanks to Bloomsbury for sending an arc for me to read an review!*
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  • Trisha
    January 1, 1970
    Very compelling and authentic.Was with Ally all the way.
  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    Real rating: 3.5 stars
  • Brittany Lamb
    January 1, 1970
    I’m becoming increasingly irritated with all of the average reads I’m completing lately.Ally lives a very quiet, normal, simple life. In fact, she’s still struggling to think of anything extraordinary to write about in her scholarship applications when her whole life gets uprooted. If Ally isn’t Ally… then who is she?This is a good, quick read. It just wasn’t great. I expected there to be more mystery and drama than there turns out to be. I feel like there was a lot of potential for it to be mor I’m becoming increasingly irritated with all of the average reads I’m completing lately.Ally lives a very quiet, normal, simple life. In fact, she’s still struggling to think of anything extraordinary to write about in her scholarship applications when her whole life gets uprooted. If Ally isn’t Ally… then who is she?This is a good, quick read. It just wasn’t great. I expected there to be more mystery and drama than there turns out to be. I feel like there was a lot of potential for it to be more riveting than it was. The story was primarily about the relationships between Ally and the people in her life and her emotions as she adjusts to everything.The pacing was fine, but honestly, it kind of felt like there was never much of a climax point. There is, I guess, when Ally finds out the big secret that changes everything she knows about herself (which I can’t really tell you about because it will spoil the entire story), but it was an underwhelming climax. What I mean is that, even though the secret is quite big and important, the reactions in the book make it feel like a little less of a big deal. Since the story is (rightfully so) written around the big secret, it made the whole thing feel kind of average.The writing was actually really wonderful and smooth, which made the story easy to stay connected to even when it wasn’t as interesting. I found myself liking nearly every character in the story (with the exception of the mother) and that’s admittedly rare. There wasn’t much development with a lot of the characters because there were so many of them, but Ally is the main focus and I felt like readers were able to get to know her really well. I tend to get easily annoyed with whiny teens in YA but Ally definitely had some reasons for her emotions.It’s hard to know what to say about an average read. It was fine, honestly. I enjoyed it well enough and finished it quickly. I enjoy the writing style of this author and may check out more of her work in the future. I’d recommend this for those of you who like YA contemporaries with plot twists that are enticing but not emotionally overwhelming.
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  • Elizabeth (BookishConnoisseur)
    January 1, 1970
    Ally Smith lives in a small town in Wisconsin. Her life isn’t perfect, but she’s happy. At home it’s just her and her widowed father. They have special traditions each night of the week; Taco Tuesday, Pizza Wednesdays, and Football Sundays. They are close and have built a life for themselves in their small town. Even the town’s most prolific family, the Gleasons, has taken them in as their own. Ally’s best friend is Marian Gleason and Marian’s cousin Neil is the boy Ally is developing feelings f Ally Smith lives in a small town in Wisconsin. Her life isn’t perfect, but she’s happy. At home it’s just her and her widowed father. They have special traditions each night of the week; Taco Tuesday, Pizza Wednesdays, and Football Sundays. They are close and have built a life for themselves in their small town. Even the town’s most prolific family, the Gleasons, has taken them in as their own. Ally’s best friend is Marian Gleason and Marian’s cousin Neil is the boy Ally is developing feelings for.Ally and her friends are in their senior year of high school and experiencing the stress of applying for college and making plans for the future. Ally is diligent about getting her applications in and applying for as many scholarships as possible. However, when she sends in her applications, they come right back due to an error with her social security number. What ensues leaves Ally and the whole town reeling. Her entire life is turned upside down and she is left trying to put the pieces back together while not losing herself in the process.This book was SO intriguing! I could not put it down first because I had to find out what was going on, and then because I loved watching Ally grow and navigate such a difficult and confusing part of her life. As someone who is both a mother and daughter, I felt sympathy for both sides in this story. It was heartbreaking and frustrating and so many times I just wanted to grab the characters and hug them and then tell them to speak to each other, but also to listen!I love that the author took such a unique situation and really brought the characters and story to life. It was a fantastic read with a story that will definitely stick with me.Thank you so much to Bloomsbury & NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book!
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  • Kelly Hager
    January 1, 1970
    I felt so awful for Ally. I can't imagine how it would feel to learn that everything you thought you knew about your life was a lie. Then, as an added bonus, you would have to go live with strangers in an entirely different state. And Ally does her best. She doesn't continually ask her mom to call her Ally instead of Amanda. She doesn't try and run away. She just quietly becomes increasingly unhappy.On paper, her new life seems better. Her stepdad is super nice and she has a half-sister. All of I felt so awful for Ally. I can't imagine how it would feel to learn that everything you thought you knew about your life was a lie. Then, as an added bonus, you would have to go live with strangers in an entirely different state. And Ally does her best. She doesn't continually ask her mom to call her Ally instead of Amanda. She doesn't try and run away. She just quietly becomes increasingly unhappy.On paper, her new life seems better. Her stepdad is super nice and she has a half-sister. All of a sudden, she has this huge extended family. But again, they're complete strangers. Her school is also a lot better but it's hard to make friends because how do you figure out and stick to a cover story so no one figures out you're THAT KID.This is a real departure from Elizabeth Eulberg's usual books (it's just as well-written and fun to read, but it's not as light as her other books---this is not to say it's dark or uncomfortable to read; it's just comparatively dark) but I think it's her best yet. Recommended.
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  • Carin
    January 1, 1970
    Ally Smith lives in an adorable small town in Wisconsin, where she is in with the "in crowd," which is a family that comprises half the town (literally). The boy she likes might actually be into her. And she's pretty sure about her college plans. Until, while filling out applications, her social security number is bounced back as invalid. She goes to her high school counselor to sort it out, and... The FBI shows up. Turns out, she's been kidnapped. By her beloved father, from a mom she never kne Ally Smith lives in an adorable small town in Wisconsin, where she is in with the "in crowd," which is a family that comprises half the town (literally). The boy she likes might actually be into her. And she's pretty sure about her college plans. Until, while filling out applications, her social security number is bounced back as invalid. She goes to her high school counselor to sort it out, and... The FBI shows up. Turns out, she's been kidnapped. By her beloved father, from a mom she never knew, and in fact believed to be dead.At first, she hopes she can finish out her senior year staying with her friends at her high school, but her mother, who is understandably elated to have found her and baffled by Ally's lack of similar excitement, wants to take Ally home to Florida and her new family. As Ally is under 18 (which she did not know--her dad had changed her birthday too), she has no choice in the matter. She gets to see her father one time after he's locked up, and then she's shipped off.She is furious at her father but also bereft at his loss. She is annoyed by her new overprotective and overbearing mother. She hates her new school (where, to avoid press, she also has to go by a pseudonym and make up a backstory which is harder than you'd think.) Her new younger half-sister seems to be a total bitch. She can't even have her beloved dog. In a very nice touch, her new step-father is the most understanding and empathetic--but not too much--person in the story, by far. Ally is confused, abandoned, lonely while being overloved, hiding from reporters, trying to meet a huge new family she never knew existed, trying to reconcile her past and her feelings for her father, and in general, just dealing with a new life that seems like a hot mess.This is a very plot-driven book which plays out a fascinating what-if scenario (and not one as far-fetched as you might think as the vast majority of kidnapping cases, the kidnapper is a family member and they're due to custody battles.) As I am of a certain age, this REALLY reminded me (in plot device, not in storytelling or anything else) of The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney, which I don't remember as being this angsty. But while the character in that book may have had an easier transition, Ally's very difficult situation actually felt more realistic.
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  • caitlin
    January 1, 1970
    Review copy courtesy of NetGalley.This book had a very compelling premise: Allison lives in a small town in Wisconsin, has a super close relationship with her dad, and is excited to apply to college. But applying to college triggers a very unexpected life change: she discovers her dad has been lying to her since she was a toddler, and stole her from her mom.There was enough in this book to maybe fill a few books on this story but I was a little disappointed by the characterization of the Mom, wh Review copy courtesy of NetGalley.This book had a very compelling premise: Allison lives in a small town in Wisconsin, has a super close relationship with her dad, and is excited to apply to college. But applying to college triggers a very unexpected life change: she discovers her dad has been lying to her since she was a toddler, and stole her from her mom.There was enough in this book to maybe fill a few books on this story but I was a little disappointed by the characterization of the Mom, who did not seem to sympathize at all with her daughter’s shock and depression. Readers who like realistic fiction but even thrillers may enjoy this one.
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  • Nikki S
    January 1, 1970
    Another intense read.... Real review to come.
  • tasha_thebookworm_
    January 1, 1970
    The synopsis for the book gave me Lifetime movie vibes which I absolutely love so I figured I’d love the book, unfortunately I did not. 1- I wish there was more in the book about what happened between Ally’s parents from the mother’s (Paula) point of view. We only get a snippet from the dad (Jason/Daniel). 2- Ally was a bit annoying. 3- The mom and daughter never really had a deep conversation about everything that happened or was happening. Everything was sorta dry with both of them. Overall, i The synopsis for the book gave me Lifetime movie vibes which I absolutely love so I figured I’d love the book, unfortunately I did not. 1- I wish there was more in the book about what happened between Ally’s parents from the mother’s (Paula) point of view. We only get a snippet from the dad (Jason/Daniel). 2- Ally was a bit annoying. 3- The mom and daughter never really had a deep conversation about everything that happened or was happening. Everything was sorta dry with both of them. Overall, it was an okay read. I didn’t hate it, I’m just disappointed because it had potential.
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  • Anna Motteler
    January 1, 1970
    Predictable. Also the writing was very.... staged. Not very real to me. I felt like the author tried way too hard.
  • Azzurra Nox
    January 1, 1970
    Very fast paced and compelling book. I enjoyed the wild ride it put me through. The characters are likable and to some extent relatable which makes it easier to get sucked into the story and care about what is happening to them.
  • Laura Gardner
    January 1, 1970
    The Girl on the Milk Carton is better. I usually like Elizabeth Eulberg books, but this one fell a bit flat for me. Very little romance and Ally lacked personality. I’ll still probably buy it...maybe?
  • Charlotte
    January 1, 1970
    an interesting premise, but Eulberg's writing didn't work well for me, and some details, like a 17 year old girl lovingly popping food into her father's mouth, felt off...not sure if this was a brilliant, understated example of the father being weird in his raising her to a pretty unhealthy level of closeness that wasn't fully recognized as such, or just off.....the mother also was extreme.
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  • Kat
    January 1, 1970
    A well written and unique novel for the young adult genre. I liked the premise and the main character. If you found out that you weren't who you thought what would you do? I think most would be overwhelmed by the secrets and lies so it did have a realistic quality to the plot. I think that the author conveys a teens emotions and need to find the truth.Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the E-arc copy of this novel.
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  • Jen Petro-Roy
    January 1, 1970
    Reallllly good. Eulberg handles the complicated emotions of this situation so well.
  • Caitlin
    January 1, 1970
    3.5/5 StarsAuthor: Elizabeth EulbergPublisher: Bloomsbury YAEdition: e-ARC, 344 Digital PagesHardcover Publication Date: July 09, 2019A Spine that Shines? Partially*This review is based on the e-ARC edition provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All quotes used in this review come from the uncorrected proof. These are my honest opinions. Thank you.* I try not to think about anything. The past is too painful, the present too confusing, and the future too scary. Ally, Past Perfect LifeInitial Th 3.5/5 StarsAuthor: Elizabeth EulbergPublisher: Bloomsbury YAEdition: e-ARC, 344 Digital PagesHardcover Publication Date: July 09, 2019A Spine that Shines? Partially*This review is based on the e-ARC edition provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All quotes used in this review come from the uncorrected proof. These are my honest opinions. Thank you.* I try not to think about anything. The past is too painful, the present too confusing, and the future too scary. Ally, Past Perfect LifeInitial Thoughts:Happy Saturday! I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend! I finished reading Past Perfect Life today. At first I was kind of torn between whether to rate it 3.5 or 4 stars, but ultimately went with 3.5. Since my rating scales may be slightly different from those of other reviewers, let me clarify that 3.5 is a middle-range rating for me. It means that I liked the book, but some factor kept me from rating it higher. In this case, part of the reason is I didn’t feel super strongly about the book.I requested this book because I really enjoyed two of the author’s previous books: Prom & Prejudice and Better off Friends. And there is still much to appreciate here in Past Perfect Life as well. The premise is intriguing. A girl named Ally has been living a quiet life in a small Wisconsin town. Then one day she finds out that her entire life has been a lie, and she is the victim of a crime (even though she doesn’t feel like a victim). The author captures the voice of a teenage girl very well. I’m sure many students would find Ally’s worries about college applications and scholarship essays quite relatable. Eulberg also captures the complexity of the different relationships very well. In fact, it is difficult to choose a “side” in all of this because the author skillfully evokes a sense of compassion from the readers, and all the characters have their own reasons to believe that their particular point of view is correct. There are some cute, funny moments, and I really liked Neil, Ally’s crush. (More on him later.) Ally has a dog named Baxter! Adorable! Ally has such a supportive group of people in Wisconsin, and it is touching to see how much they care about her even though they are not related by blood. ‘And, Ally, I’ve waited this long. I can wait a little longer. You’re worth it.’ Neil, Past Perfect LifeCharacters:Here is a brief overview of some of the characters: Ally is living a quiet life until everything is turned upside-down. She is a good student who never gets in trouble. She is quiet and has very close relationship with her dad. She also has a massive crush on Neil, a boy at school. Marian is Ally’s best friend. The friendship relationship between them is written very well, and I think they have a good connection. Marian’s entire family seems to care about Ally very much. Neil is just so sweet! He is one of Marian’s many cousins. When Ally has to leave, he tells her that he is willing to wait for her because she is “worth it.” I actually felt as if there wasn’t enough of him in the book. I really liked the scenes between him and Ally. They make a cute couple. But I was left with the feeling that we don’t actually get to know that much about him in particular. ‘Just remember during a storm, Ally Bean, that light will always follow,’ he used to say. Ally’s Dad, Past Perfect LifeFinal Thoughts:So what prevented me from fully enjoying this book? Partly, I didn’t feel super strongly about it by the end. For one thing, I was hoping there would be more mystery/suspense. But the story is actually less about the crime and more about what happens to Ally after she finds out the big revelation. It also takes a while for the story to fully pick up. (For me personally, it took about 80 pages.) The plot lags a little bit in the middle, and Ally does spend a while wallowing in her misery, which can be depressing to read about. Ally’s mother figure comes across as really controlling in some moments. While I understand that the mother has been through a rough patch, it is quite frustrating that she doesn’t want to listen to how Ally feels about her new life. And her mother’s treatment of her really seems to affect Ally’s emotional health, almost sending her into a depression of sorts.In the end, I do think it is good that Ally is able to finally find her voice and make herself heard. And I would still recommend this book to readers who enjoy realistic fiction with a focus on family relationships! That is what the book is mainly about. I’m also willing to give the author’s other books a chance, and I would certainly recommend Prom & Prejudice if you’re unsure of where to begin with Elizabeth Eulberg’s books. (I adore Jane Austen retellings!) Happy reading 🙂*Content Warnings: Some swearing (including a few uses of the s-word and f-word), thoughts/behavior that can come across as depressing*
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  • Cristina (Girl in the Pages)
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.I didn't know much about Past Perfect Life when I saw it sitting inconspicuously at a booth at ALA this winter. The cover was interesting and I heard it compared to Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (a phenomenal book) so I decided to pick it up and try it out. I'm so glad I did, because I flew through Past Perfect Life in less than 24 hours and was fully immers I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.I didn't know much about Past Perfect Life when I saw it sitting inconspicuously at a booth at ALA this winter. The cover was interesting and I heard it compared to Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (a phenomenal book) so I decided to pick it up and try it out. I'm so glad I did, because I flew through Past Perfect Life in less than 24 hours and was fully immersed in the tale of Allison Smith and how her life is completely destroyed and rebuilt by the simple action of submitting her college applications.Things I Enjoyed:-Coincidentally enough, this book reminded me of two other books I really enjoyed, both by Robin Benway: Emmy & Oliver and Far From the Tree. It almost felt like a hybrid of the two, but in a good way and definitely with its own voice.-Mild spoiler: From the summary of the book, you can probably surmise that Ally isn't who she thinks she is because she was abducted by a relative when she was a young child. Thus, she truly has no idea that she's a victim until the FBI comes banging down her door. I think this is such an interesting topic to handle because it seems to happen all the time. So often when we get Amber alerts on our phones, it's due to kidnappings of children by parents or relatives, often times in custody cases gone wrong. It's always so heartbreaking, and leads to so many questions: Why was the child taken? Are they better or worse off? Are they in danger? Were they being taken out of an abusive situation? I like that Ally did get to hear her kidnapper's reasons directly and that they weren't necessarily ones that she expected.-Though Ally's family (as she knows it) in Wisconsin is small, she has an amazing support system via her best friend's family, the Gleasons. I think we all love a large, loud, and loveable YA family (such as the Grants in Save the Date) and the Gleasons hit the mark on this trope. I enjoyed their characters and the way they were so integrated into the town (the mayor, the sheriff, the controller, etc).-Supportive grandparents and step-parents!! Seriously, Ally has one of the most supportive and approachable step-parents I've ever read in YA and I think that's so important to show! There's many grandmother figures as well that play a strong role in Ally's life and I just LOVE when books explore family dynamics outside of the nuclear family. Also, Ally finds out she has a half-sibling and I enjoyed reading about the development of her relationship with her sister Sarah, and how Sarah's life was impacted by having an older sister she never knew due to her being kidnapped.- This book was largely split into two portions: 1) Ally's life before and the reveal of the truth, and 2) Ally dealing with the emotional fallout of finding out the truth. I appreciated that the second half of the book focused heavily on Ally's emotions, which could range from "This will all be OK, I just have to get through this" one moment, and "I CANNOT DO THIS" the next. It was what I assume is a realistic tornado of emotions from a teenager who has been put in an impossible situation.I like that the narrative showed Ally's frustrations with ALL of her relatives and BOTH of her parents. There's weren't clear cut "sides." Sure, Ally logically knows that one parent was in the wrong for kidnapping her, but also acknowledges "hey, I had a good life." She at times empathizes with the parent who is finally being reunited with her but also gets frustrated by how that parent wants to disregard the woman she's become in favor of who she could have been if she had never left. Ally's character development and reaction to her situation is complex and captivating to read about.-Eulberg did a great job of setting the tone of Ally's small Wisconsin town- I admit it's a state I know little about but I feel like I know a little bit more after reading this novel, and it was great to see a character with so much state pride!Things I Didn't Love:-I'm going to sound like a broken record in my reviews lately but this is another one that probably didn't really need a romance. It was sweet but personally didn't add much to the story for me.-I wish it had been longer! I was so intrigued by Ally's story and predicament and really felt like I could have read another 100+ pages, seeing how the rest of her senior year panned out and her attending the trial of her relative/kidnapper. There's no real closure for Ally and though I can see why the author left it open ended, I would have loved more.Overall: An addicting read with a premise so intriguing that you'll likely keep turning the pages and reading this one quickly! Great for readers who like stories that explore family dynamics with dysfunction.This review was originally posted on Girl in the Pages
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  • Kathy Martin
    January 1, 1970
    Ally Smith has a great life. She loves living in Valley Falls, Wisconsin. She has a close circle of friends and has been adopted into the Gleason clan who run the town. A Gleason is the Sheriff. A Gleason owns the Hardware Store. A Gleason owns the local garage. She and her dad were welcomed with open arms when they arrived eight years earlier. It has been just the two of them for all of the life that Ally remembers. Ally's dad is her best friend. They have a wonderful relationship with many rit Ally Smith has a great life. She loves living in Valley Falls, Wisconsin. She has a close circle of friends and has been adopted into the Gleason clan who run the town. A Gleason is the Sheriff. A Gleason owns the Hardware Store. A Gleason owns the local garage. She and her dad were welcomed with open arms when they arrived eight years earlier. It has been just the two of them for all of the life that Ally remembers. Ally's dad is her best friend. They have a wonderful relationship with many rituals and family traditions. Ally is number one in her class and looking forward to going to college at nearby University of Wisconsin-Green Bay if she can only get through the college admission essays. What is a significant event anyway?Things start to go wrong when she submits her college applications and they are bounced back because of an invalid Social Security number. A visit to the school's guidance councilor sets massive changes in motion. A visit from the Sheriff and the FBI puts the icing on an unwanted cake. Ally Smith isn't Ally Smith. She was kidnapped by her dad when she was three-years-old and they have been on the run since. Her mother didn't die of cancer. In fact, she has been searching for her daughter Amanda for fifteen years and living her life around the hunt from impassioned pleas on television to the annual march in Tampa to keep her memory alive. Ally has the foundations of her world shaken. She loved her father even though he made a terrible mistake by taking her. She doesn't know her mother or her mother's new husband and daughter. But her mother is determined to bring Ally home to Florida. She wants Ally to be the daughter that she envisioned during all the missing years.This is a story of a strong young woman who was raised to be a confident young woman and who is now thrown into a situation where she knows no one and has no control over her own life. She's angry at her dad but she is equally angry at this woman who is trying to erase all the of Ally's past. I could certainly understand Ally's mother's side and can imagine the heartbreak losing a child would bring. But I still didn't really like the woman who didn't want to see who Ally was and who seemed only concerned with what she wanted. I liked the resolution of the story though thought it was rather a quick turnaround for Ally's mother.This was an amazing and engaging story filled with wonderful characters. I couldn't put it down. I had to know how things were going to work out for Ally. Fans of contemporary YA stories won't want the miss this one!
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  • ReadingWritingAndMe
    January 1, 1970
    Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg (July 9)Overview: Ally Smith has lived for almost her entire life in Wisconsin. She briefly remembers living in Chicago, but it's always been just her and her dad. She's made a life in the town and become almost family with the Gleasons who basically own the town. Her perfect life is shattered, though, when an error with her social security number on her college applications alerts the FBI that she's actually a missing person. Overall: 4.5 Characters: 5 All Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg (July 9)Overview: Ally Smith has lived for almost her entire life in Wisconsin. She briefly remembers living in Chicago, but it's always been just her and her dad. She's made a life in the town and become almost family with the Gleasons who basically own the town. Her perfect life is shattered, though, when an error with her social security number on her college applications alerts the FBI that she's actually a missing person. Overall: 4.5 Characters: 5 Ally is an awesome main character. Her voice and handling of emotions is so relatable, and I love how articulate she is. The emotional hurdles she jumps through are so shocking, but she makes them make sense. It's almost like a reverse savior situation she finds herself in as she's taken from her "perfect" life and dropped into one that looks much more "perfect" from the outside.The Gleasons are great additions too. They're her best friends and protect her when her world is turned upside down. They're developed enough to bring the story to life but don't steal the focus.The parents are also all very complex characters. Her father, though he kidnapped her and is probably mentally ill in some way, was a wonderful, caring father that no one suspected anything about. It creates an interesting conflict within Ally when her loving father is ripped away from her and replaced with a distant, controlling, and constantly disappointed stranger of a mother. While I won't give away too much about the family she's sent to, I will say that her step father is really the best and finding out she has a half sister makes for interesting character opportunities.Plot: 5 I could not put this book down. I read it in less than a day I was so into it. Seeing how her life changes starting from her stable Wisconsin life is fascinating. It's amazing all the complexity that is thrown at Ally.Writing: 5 Eulberg has done an amazing job of handling the emotional depth and complexity required of this story. It would be easy for a parental kidnapping story to fly off the rails, not go deep enough, or curve in the wrong direction, but the execution adds another layer of wow to it. The only thing I wish I got more of was the ending. On the final page, Ally is left in a promising yet super open place as she has a couple interesting next steps ahead. It makes me wish that a sequel was coming to follow it.
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