The Craft of Living History

Past Perfect by Leila Sales

Release Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster | Simon Pulse
Pages: 306 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra's working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated... even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new.

Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she's got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it...

Thoughts on Past Perfect
While everyone has been raving about This Song Will Save Your Life, I've been too busy falling in love with another book by Leila Sales. I hadn't even heard of Past Perfect until Estelle put it on my radar by sending me a link to Maggie's review. I found a new blog to follow and a new book to add to my TBR - so that was a double win on Estelle's part. She thought the book sounded like something I would like, and boy was she right! I'm so sad that this book doesn't have a better cover because I can't even tell you how much I loved what was inside.

Chelsea wants to do something normal this summer - like work at the mall and figure out how to finally get over her ex-boyfriend, Ezra. But, alas, she gets roped into another summer at the Essex Historical Village. She ends up back at the place she wanted to get away from and, as it turns out, surrounded by the boy she wants to forget. Ezra is working there, too, so Chelsea knows it's not going to be the summer she imagined.

When the annual summer war starts with the Civil War reenactment village across the street, Chelsea has no idea what's in store for her. She becomes interested in someone who is all wrong for her but still can't forget about the boy who broke her heart. This complicated summer is not what Chelsea had in mind!

I am a complete and total sucker a book involving historical reenactment villages. I begged my parents to go to Colonial Williamsburg for one of our family vacations as a child, and they kindly obliged. I'm not sure my siblings enjoyed it quite as much as I did, but I was overjoyed at the chance to "see" the world where Felicity (my American Girl) would have lived. Seriously, yes, I was that nerdy as a child.

Anyway, Past Perfect takes a fantastic setting and adds into some awesome characters and really witty writing. Something about Chelsea's voice just worked so perfectly for me. I caught myself laughing out loud multiple times while reading this book, and that rarely happens for me. The writing was so clever and smart, and not in a forced way at all. I could see this book being even better upon re-read, which is one of the highest compliments I can give.

I adored the small details about what it was like working at a place like this - the questions tourists ask, what the actors might really be thinking and what's going on behind the scenes. The war between the two reenactment villages (Colonial and Civil War) reminded me a little bit of the war in Jellicoe Road, and I really loved that element. The animosity between the two groups was hilarious to me.

The things Chelsea is struggling with in regards to her relationships felt so relatable, and that includes her family and friends (not just the fellas). I thought these elements were so nicely handled, and I just loved that you got a sense of all these people who were important to her. I love when secondary characters are well-developed and memorable!

I cannot say enough good things about Past Perfect, and I really wish more people would read it! It's smart, funny, sweet and just seriously so much fun. I already bought myself a paperback copy for my shelves, and I'm itching to push this book on some of my friends. The cover doesn't fit with the book (at all), but we'll forgive it that minor flaw. Just read this book, please and thank you!

So Quotable
"I've spent most of my life perfecting the craft of living history. I have no practice at living in the present."

"Also, he was kind of cute. Not really, of course, since he was the enemy, and the enemy cannot possibly be cute. He was only cute enough to make me wish I could free my hands so that I could fix my hair. I mean, fix my hair, then punch him in the face, and then run."

"The lamest guy I know wants to date me. My ex-boyfriend wants to be friends. The only guy who has any potential lives ninety years too late. I hate boys, and my life is a joke."


  1. I'm so happy you finally read this! The review popped up in my reader and I literally said out-loud "YES! She read it!" Thankfully I'm alone so no one in my real life knows how crazy I am. And thank you for the shout out!

    Anyway, I'm so glad you enjoyed it and I'm glad you bought it (I can't bring myself to put that hideous cover on my shelf). Reading your review makes me want to go back and re-read the book. And, now that you've read it, I can share the thing about it that really bothered me. Did you think it was terrible when the love interest (I can't remember his name) smashed the grave? That kind of disrespect for the dead really bothered me and I had a hard time believing someone who loved history would do something like that. But he is a teenage boy...

    1. Yayyyy! I'm so happy that I found it through your blog :) Seriously, I would NEVER have picked this book up (despite the cute summary) without your awesome review convincing me too.

      I love that you had one big thing that bothered you! I did hate that he did that, but with since I have two younger brothers I also know that teen boys don't always think things through and can do really dumb stuff with a group of their friends around. Now that you mention it though, it doesn't make as much sense since the character did love history a lot...

  2. This story also sounds far more like something I'd enjoy over This Song Will Save Your Life. (And as an aside, I was also one of those kids obsessed with historical reenactments. I also went to Williamsburg and brought my Felicity doll. For a while I wanted to attend William & Mary College just so I could go there all the time.)
    I saw reviews of this book before and was interested in reading it, and your review helped remind me of that. So thank you!

    1. Having just finished This Song Will Save Your Life, I did find that I much preferred this one to that book. While both good, this one just totally fit me as a reader. I love that you were a history nerd, too! Yay for our Felicity love :) Hope you end up reading this one!

  3. I'm so glad this recommendation worked out for you! Yay! I need to just buy myself a copy already. I did get one for my Secret Santa! (Would it be rude to read it before I sent it? It would right?? haha) This cover also looks like Disasters of my Freshman Year or something? And I always get the two confused. It's a bummer the cover doesn't match the story. Okay... off to add this book to my list for Santa.

    1. I hope you read this one soon, E! I just loved it so much. The cover is a bummer, but the story inside is absolutely adorable. Hope it's something you end up loving, too! And I laughed thinking about you reading this before sending it on to your Secret Santa. Haha!

  4. You make me want to read this book! Seriously. I love that you ended up enjoying it, and that the writing, the characters, the setting all felt so real to you. (P.S. I think it is AWESOME your parents took you to colonial Williamsburg when you were a kid. That would have been such fun! And yes, I'm a nerd too.)

    1. I hope you will read this book! It was so cute :) And I'm thankful my parents indulged my nerdiness and took me to Williamsburg. Such fun!

  5. I had Felicity too, and while I always wanted to go to Colonial Williamsburg I never did. Although to be honest, I'd still love to go now!

    1. I think you need to put that on your travel bucket list! It was so much fun. Total touristy thing, but who cares. I loved it!


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