Zombie-themed escape rooms. Artificial Intelligence. Teenage angst. Money problems. Family drama. A survival competition. Scheming competitors. More zombies.
The Perfect Escape is a fun, sweet mix of all of the above.
Nate Jae-Woo Kim is a Skid—a scholarship kid. The other students at his upper-crust school, where he deals with classism and racism every day, have more than enough of what he wants most in the world. Money. His Korean-American parents are hard-working, and though he isn’t allowed to say it, not doing well monetarily. When students at his school ask him to throw his GPA for a huge sum, he’s very tempted. Luckily, a new friend just might have the answer to his problem.
Kate Anderson is an aspiring actress with a rich, domineering father whose company is on the cutting edge of AI technology. She needs money too, so she starts work as a zombie at the escape room Nate works at. She soon finds out about a zombie-themed survival contest and ropes her new acquaintance into being her teammate. After all, she won’t feel bad about leaving someone she doesn’t know to head to New York after they win.
For the majority of the book, Nate and Kate have the chance to get to know each other, and the reader gets to know the people in their lives. Through this, their lives are contrasted, exposing truths about love and ambition and life that—while simple—are all too important.
Their families are the major contrast. Nate’s family is, while strict, also clearly loving. His parents are home every night and always a call away. His younger sister, while of course a constant bother, is also a steadfast source of joy. Kate’s family, however, only consists of her standoffish father who is almost never home and seeks to monitor and control every aspect of her life. Despite the money Kate’s father has, not only do they lack a relationship, but she has no freedom to put that money to use, so it’s essentially worthless.
Closer to the end of the novel, the two begin the competition, putting their newfound relationship to the test, leading to unexpected revelations that further complicate their situation.
I enjoyed the dynamics between Nate’s family. Sure, they weren’t perfect, but they were realistic and they cared for one another. It’s too often in YA fiction that parents are absent for one reason or another, and it was nice that Nate’s parents played a fairly large part in his character arc. I also loved his little sister, of course, because she’s a little ray of destructive sunshine and reminds me of my own younger brother.
On the other hand, I expected way more action. My bad, I guess, but there was a huge chunk of the book that had nothing to do with zombies or escape rooms or the competition. While I did enjoy learning about these characters, I found myself wishing for them to just get to the start of the competition.
The Perfect Escape isn’t complex, nor is it compulsively readable, but it has everything one should expect from a contemporary YA. From the dash of romance to the heaps of awkwardness to the expected amounts of jealousy and family drama to the ownvoices rep, The Perfect Escape is the perfect escape for its type of reader.