Perfect Little World – Kevin Wilson
When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she's just about out of options. She recently graduated from high school and is pregnant with her art teacher's baby. Her mother is dead and her father is a drunk. The art teacher is too much of a head-case to help raise the child. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or prospects, she's left searching.
So when Dr. Grind offers her a space in The Infinite Family Project, she accepts. Housed in a spacious compound in Tennessee, she joins nine other couples, all with children the same age as her newborn son, to raise their children as one extended family. Grind's theory is that the more parental love a child receives, the better off they are.
This attempt at a utopian ideal—funded by an eccentric billionaire—starts off promising: Izzy enjoys the kids, reading to them and teaching them to cook. She even forms a bond with her son more meaningful than she ever expected. But soon the gentle equilibrium among the families is upset and it all starts to disintegrate: unspoken resentments between the couples begin to fester; the project's funding becomes tenuous; and Izzy's feelings for Dr. Grind, who is looking to expunge his own painful childhood, make her question her participation in this strange experiment in the first place.
Review: Judging by the synopsis, this is a very “me” book. Utopian compounds, nontraditional families, strange experiments, eccentric billionaires. It sounds like this should be my favorite book ever.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like it. I think this is an example of a brilliant premise that’s executed poorly.
It didn’t start off bad. I actually flew through the first third of the book because the dysfunctional relationships intrigued me. The story hooked me right at the start:
“Three hours after she had graduated from high school, Izzy sat on a park bench next to her art teacher, Mr. Jackson, and told him that she was pregnant.” – Perfect Little World
Eighteen-year-old Izzy is pregnant with her art teacher’s baby, but he has no interest in the child, and she doesn’t have the resources to care for it. Izzy decides to enroll in the Infinite Family Project, a child-development study that requires her to spend ten years living in a compound with 9 other families. At first, adjusting to life in the compound is hard. Then Izzy befriends the other families, and the compound becomes a “perfect little world.” What Izzy doesn’t know is that funding for the Infinite Family Project is precarious. Her home and family could be ripped away from her at any moment.
The beginning of this book is actually pretty interesting. I enjoyed reading about Izzy’s doomed relationship with her mentally ill teacher. It definitely isn’t a healthy relationship, but it’s a realistic one. Izzy is a caretaker type. She’s drawn to older men who have serious psychological issues. She can’t fix the issues, so her relationships usually don’t last very long.
The book goes downhill after Izzy joins the Project. A lot of characters are introduced quickly. We get a huge info-dump about each of them, and that’s pretty much it. There’s no character development. I actually couldn’t remember who was who because they’re just names. They don’t have personalities. They don’t have motivation for anything they do. One lady hates Izzy for . . . reasons? I don’t know why. The author says that another lady is Izzy’s best friend, but we barely see them interacting. Then an evil lady tries to shut down the project for . . . rich people reasons? Because rich people think poor people are defective? I don’t know. The characters are all flat, and a lot of their choices don’t make sense to me.
There’s a huge potential for tension between the characters, but there’s barely any tension. The stakes aren’t very high. Probably because the characters don’t feel real. I didn’t care what would happen to them if the experiment ended.
My biggest issue with this book is that nothing happens. The parents take care of the kids, and the kids do kid things. This experimental family is exactly like a boring regular family. I guess there’s a message in that. Any type of family can be happy and successful. But, the problem is that I don’t want to read about a boring regular family. I kept waiting for something strange or dramatic to happen, but nothing happens.
I was excited for this book because it sounds so unusual, but I ended up disappointed. The plot and the characters just fell flat.