Disclaimer: This review is based only on the version of Perfect Addiction that is a Wattpad Paid Story. It is not a review of the published version coming out on July 19th, 2022, which is available to pre-order here.
Perfect Addiction by Claudia Tan is a story of epic fights and epic proportions, having amassed over 85.4 million reads on the digital storytelling platform Wattpad. With a movie already in the works, it’s clear that Perfect Addiction is a success story in all senses of the word, from its gripping storyline to its ability to engage audiences.
Its characters, however, aren’t successful—or at least they aren’t at the beginning. Sienna Lane is a kickboxing trainer who’s just discovered that her longtime boyfriend Jax Deneris has been cheating on her with her sister, Beth. Consumed by a need for revenge against Jax, who happens to be the reigning champion of an underground fighting ring, Sienna decides to train his leading opponent Kayden Williams so that Kayden can beat Jax at the next championship. Kayden, who previously lost to Jax, has his own demons to deal with, but he agrees to Sienna’s deal out of a desire to win.
The story follows a somewhat predictable arc and has its cliché moments. As a whole, though, Perfect Addiction is cinematically compelling and perfect for readers who want an action-oriented romance or just a good story. There’s a clear external conflict that motivates the structure: training sessions and the buildup to the fighting championships. Meanwhile, Sienna and Kayden both have to face their complex inner conflicts in order to reconcile with themselves and those around them. There’s also a central question that complicates the themes of the story: how far will we go for revenge, and how far will revenge take us?
Sienna is a refreshing character and female lead, mostly because she knows how to handle herself, but she also knows how to be emotionally vulnerable. Her past experiences being trained by Jax make her all the more knowledgeable of his moves and patterns, which in turn makes her all the more promising as a candidate to train Kayden. It feels pretty significant that Sienna’s investment in Kayden comes from her personal vendetta, as it’s a character motivation that feeds into Sienna’s identity as a trainer.
What’s most significant, however, is Sienna’s rage. It’s hard to find novels that show rage in a way that validates the character, but Tan does it. Sienna’s rightfully angry at Jax, her father who’s marrying another woman, and her sister. That resentment fuels Sienna’s desire for vengeance, which means that she must wrestle with the dark side of herself that’s stemmed from all the challenges she’s endured throughout her life.
Pain is a central concept in this novel. Of course, there’s the physical pain that comes from the dynamics of fighting. All the action scenes are sketched out in visual detail, and Tan manages to write these scenes with a distinct kind of rhythm that keeps readers on edge.
On the other hand, there’s also a lot of emotional pain. There’s pain from Sienna, who can’t find the will in herself to forgive the people who have hurt her. Kayden’s struggling with an incident in his past, and although the execution of this does lean into tortured-bad-boy trope territory, there’s no denying that this dynamic makes his character more engaging as a love interest. The romance is, in a cheesy way, electrifying; it’s always clear what Sienna and Kayden see in one another and their interactions are very much charged with chemistry and the obstacles that keep them from getting together.
To be together, both Sienna and Kayden have to learn to confront the trauma of their past. In the process of confronting that trauma, they also have to figure out what winning means to them. Tan complicates the definition of “fighter” by shedding light on the fact that it’s not about being eternally angry and out for violence; it’s about being vulnerable while learning to deal with pain in one’s life.
From the first punch it throws, Perfect Addiction is a thrilling fight that lasts from start to finish. The duality of being a “fighter,” both the kind in the ring and the kind in life, is the most important idea that Perfect Addiction carries. Even after the last match has already happened, this idea hangs around. Persisting.