Book Review: ‘Mr. Perfect on Paper’ by Jean Meltzer

Jean Meltzer delivers another on-point Jewish romance with ‘Mr. Perfect on Paper’. This story has so much going for it. It’s hilarious, heartwarming, and includes a meditation on grief. This delightful romcom will have you laughing, crying, and maybe believing in the power of love. Through in one of the best Bubbe’s put to paper, and you have a winner. 

A Very Jewish Love Story:

Readers of ‘Mr. Perfect on Paper’ are immediately introduced to Dara Rabinowitz, matchmaker extraordinaire, who has yet to find love herself. Never fear, though, she has a list. She’s never mocked for being an A-Grade planner. She’s essentially the Jewish Amy Santiago, and we love that for her. Her character is never mocked, for all of her quirks and her need to have control over her love life. Rather, she’s presented as someone who knows what she wants. Even when she doubts herself, she is able to consistently stay true to her values. 

Enter Chris Steadfast, a man who doesn’t fit into any of the points on Dara’s almighty list. He’s wildly imperfect, and yet this is what makes him so endearing. He’s not a particularly good father when he’s first introduced. Like many men, he’s incapable of processing his grief and balancing this with his actual parenting responsibilities. His journey is a relatable one, and it’s important to show men in particular not staying stuck in their old ways. He’s only worthy of Dara when he’s done his own internal work. 

A Romance Worthy of Mr. Malcolm:

The list trope is an elite-level trope, that Meltzer uses to perfection in ‘Mr. Perfect on Paper’. What makes this list trope so deliciously sweet is that the best stories are never about the lists. Rather, it’s the realization that the list is inconsequential once the right people end up together. Watching Dara discover what’s most important to her, while negotiating her own limits, is aspirational. 

The question of intermarriage has been one fraught with heartbreak for generations. Resistance within the Jewish community to marrying non-Jews is borne of years of oppression, violence, fear, and heartache. Chris isn’t presented as some kind of magical solution. Rather, his and Dara’s relationship is shown to be complex and worth fighting for. Instead of presenting easy solutions for these centuries-old problems, the story asks readers to think about the beauty and challenges of interfaith relationships in a compassionate way. 

Disability Representation:

Meltzer has proven time and again that she is able to represent various disabilities in an authentic way. It’s clear that she’s drawn from her personal experience to make the story even richer. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is still stigmatized and misunderstood. Although much work has been done to normalize talking about mental health conditions, there is still much work to do. 

Dara’s Generalized Anxiety Disorder never takes away from her character, or her story. Instead, it’s used to show how human she is, and how the condition informs her everyday life. There’s also commentary on how society in general still completely ignores the need for accessibility when it comes to mental health conditions. 

There is much to love about Mr. Perfect on Paper. From it’s use of the list trope to the honest discussion about interfaith relationships, it’s charming from beginning to end. Perhaps the only flaw is that the story itself is far too short. There are so many opportunities to expand these characters and stories. Hopefully, this is not the last we will see of this loveable family. 

Mr. Perfect on Paper is available now. 

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