Ella (or No. 7 as she's been known thus far in her life) is a beautiful, young pet in "Perfected," bred and raised in a kind of human puppy mill where girls are selectively created, raised, taught proper etiquette and made to perfect skills they can show off at parties.
She's sold at 16 to the congressman who fought to make this type of pet ownership legal in his state, and she comes to live with his family in wealth and elegance.
It should be a paradise for her, but the congressman's wife doesn't approve. He's kind of a lech. The oldest son seems to dislike her, the oldest daughter is jealous and the youngest daughter treats her like a favorite toy.
Ella has to try and make sense of the world she's entered and the things she's been taught to expect by the harsh mistress at her school.
But she wasn't taught to expect the complications that arise.
She can't read, and most of what she encounters is foreign, much like how it would be for an alien to suddenly come into Earth life. On every turn, she meets a surprise.
Ella is unprepared for the advances of men and afraid to strike out on her own to avoid them.
She falls in love with a gorgeous, kind young man who's attracted to her innocence and guilelessness. She's kidnapped by a well-meaning neighbor.
She's scheduled for a kind of spaying procedure after she "runs away" a second time.
The result is a story that's both too light and yet sobering.
"Perfected" has an interesting premise and has some dimensions of slavery, a concept that is hard to believe would work in a modern society.
However, in this day and age of dystopian stories, it's plausible as a good read just to see where it goes.Comment on this story
"Perfected" doesn't include any swearing. Although there's no described sex, there are threats of sexual harm and sexual advances. And there is also an attraction that turns into a relationship between Ella and a young man, and it's implied that relationship goes beyond kissing. It doesn't include any described violence.
Despite the indignities of a character being a pet, there's basic human kindness along the way to help balance out the premise.
Author Kate Jarvik Birch lives in Salt Lake City and is the daughter of former Deseret News journalist Elaine Jarvik.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.