The Perfect Parent Project is the name given to foster child Sam McCann’s secret project to find the perfect parents. After living in nine foster homes in five years he just wants somewhere to call home and a family that will always be there for him. The story gives a great insight into a child’s experience in foster care and raises a readers’ awareness of some of the emotions linked to that experience.
The Story: Eleven year old Sam currently lives with Reilly and his parents, Sarah and Tom, but he doesn’t feel settled and is waiting for the day that his social worker, Rock Star Steve, comes to move him to another family. Sam’s best friend, Leah, suggests he looks for a real home and helps him to start his Perfect Parent Project. Sam’s search leads him to befriend Josh who is staying with his aunt and uncle, Michelle and Dave. Sam thinks they would make perfect parents but his attempts to put his project in action become more and more complicated as he spends more time with them whilst trying to hide the reality of his own family situation.
Sam makes lists of things that he would like from his perfect parents including a massive flat screen TV, brown hair like his, a daughter to help with homework, a holiday to Disneyland and a BMW M5. He goes with Leah to the poshest part of town, puts up posters about his search and then they wait…
Themes of family, friendship, love and never giving up hope are interlinked throughout the story. Sam is not always a likeable character and at times we were frustrated by the lies he told but as the story unfolded we learnt more about his previous experiences and gained a better understanding of how his lack of self-esteem drives his actions and emotions. He spends a lot of time looking at the bigger picture and doesn’t recognise how much the family he lives with cares about him, particularly Reilly who loves playing video games with Sam. The relationship between Sam and Reilly is really heartwarming and Sam cares more about him than he will admit but the uncertainty of his situation means that he is just waiting for the next change. Leah and Sam also have a supportive relationship. Leah, who also doesn’t come from a perfect family, is a driving force behind Sam’s plan and is a friend who he can really trust.
There is also humour – Sam buying a suit, the scenes at the bandstand – and we love the interactions between Sam and his school friends who don’t know about Sam’s family situation. Sam is a talented actor but is reluctant to audition for the school play, Bugsy Malone, in case he has to move again. Every time he meets with Steve, Sam is worried he’ll need to pack his bags. Steve has been a constant in Sam’s life and it is through conversations with him that we learn more about Sam’s past.
Sam keeps his project a secret as he gradually becomes more involved with Josh and his family but he finds himself telling more and more lies and jeopardises his existing relationships in the process. His happiness is right under his nose but in his relentless search he fails to recognise how much his foster family cares about him.
The Perfect Parent Project is a heartwarming, entertaining story which evoked so many different emotions – we couldn’t put it down! Although there were times when Sam’s actions really frustrated us we just wanted him to be happy, however and wherever that would be.
Age Range: 9 +
Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending an ARC of this engaging story of hope and determination.