Cover image for Picture perfect
Picture perfect
Alphin, Elaine Marie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Minneapolis : Carolrhoda Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
244 pages ; 22 cm
A gap in his memory the afternoon that his best friend disappears in a redwood forest has a fifteen-year-old photographer wondering about his own role in the mystery, and who he can turn to for help.
Reading Level:
800 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.1 10.0 74405.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.8 15 Quiz: 34411 Guided reading level: U.
Format :


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When Ian Slater's best friend, Teddy, suddenly vanishes, it's up to Ian to find out what happened. He and Teddy were supposed to take photographs together on the day Teddy disappeared--but Teddy never showed up. Rumors are flying, and everyone looks to Ian for answers. Has Teddy run away, searching for the father he's never met? Or has something more sinister happened? Ian doesn't know, and he can't quite remember everything that happened the day Teddy vanished. On top of that, he keeps having terrifying dreams and hearing strange voices. People are starting to say he's acting strangely, and the sheriff keeps questioning him. As Ian tries to hold it all together and search for clues to Teddy's disappearance, he strives to present those around him with the picture of a normal kid. But the more he finds out, the less he understands. How well does he really know Teddy? How well does he even know himself?

Author Notes

Elain Marie Alphin was born in 1955 in San Francisco, California. She attended Rice University and upon graduation she received a Watson Research Fellowship, a grant given to graduating college seniors to fund independent study and travel outside the United States. She spent the next year in England, doing research for a novel she was writing about Richard III and his murder of his nephews. She turned her research into a novel for middle-grade readers entitled, Tournament of Time. Her other novels includeded Ghost Cadet, Picture Perfect, The Perfect Shot, and Simon Says. She won the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery and was named a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers for the novel Counterfeit Son. She died on August 19, 2014 at age 58.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-9. Ian Slater, the principal's son, has many secrets. One is the hideout he and his best friend, Teddy, have created in an abandoned motel in the redwood forest surrounding their small northern California town. Here the boys take photos, read photography magazines, and keep secret journals. Yet, as close as the kids seem to be, they keep secrets from one another: Ian has an abusive father; Teddy is searching for the father he's never met. After Teddy fails to go home one day, Ian becomes a suspect in the disappearance. Told through Ian's first-person narrative, this psychological thriller has many twists and turns, incorporating multiple personalities, name games, and paternity riddles. Readers will relish following Teddy's trail of digital photographs and anticipating Ian's triumph. --Debbie Carton Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Alphin (Counterfeit Son; Simon Says) again explores the psychological ramifications of physical and emotional abuse in this taut suspense novel set in the small town of Sawville. The narrator, 14-year-old Ian Slater, lives under the thumb of his father (one of the punishments he devises for Ian is making the teen sleep in the family closet), who is also the local school's principal. Ian has two ways to escape his pain. One is retreating to the redwood forest outside of town to pursue his photography, a passionate interest he shares with his best friend, Teddy Camden. The other is to "zone out": "It's kind of like disappearing into a fog-sometimes I can sort of see things through the fog, but most of the time I don't have any idea what's happening," he explains to a kind classmate. When Teddy disappears, and Ian cannot remember anything that happened that day, he becomes the local sheriff's main suspect. Ian uncovers not just his father's surprising role in Teddy's disappearance, but his own coping mechanism: the development of multiple personalities. Ian's father may be a stock character, but Ian is fully formed. Unlike the narrator of Counterfeit Son, who gained a true understanding of himself only at the conclusion, Ian's process is gradual, as he slowly recovers his memory, making his story a compelling journey of self-discovery and self-protection. Ages 12-18. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Ian's friend is missing, and no one knows what happened to him. Or do they? As Ian searches for clues, snatches of a forest glen and Teddy pleading for help keep creeping into his mind. On top of that, Ian's father, the school principal, has been putting extra pressure on his son to be perfect. The protagonist's three "personalities," School-Ian, Home-Ian, and Failure-Ian, all try to work together to do what is expected, but sometimes the expectations are too great and Ian "zones out." As he struggles to remember what he may have seen the day Teddy disappeared, he begins to understand what happened, what he is repressing, and what role his violent father played in his friend's disappearance. Once again, Alphin uses child abuse and the machinations of the mind to create her story, but this time it falls short of believability. While the setting is perfect and Ian's character is well developed, readers are likely to be puzzled by the initially unexplained voice Ian hears in his head. Also, some of Teddy's journal writing is obviously forced to advance the plot and may not ring true for teen readers. Because of the complexities of the relationships, reluctant readers will struggle, but better readers searching for a "male-oriented" mystery may be satisfied.-Lynn Evarts, Sauk Prairie High School, Prairie du Sac, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.