The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on August 30, 2016
Genre(s): fiction, mystery, suspense, thriller
Format & Length: paperback, 464
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Zoe Maisey is a seventeen-year-old musical prodigy with a genius IQ. Three years ago, she was involved in a tragic incident that left three classmates dead. She served her time, and now her mother, Maria, is resolved to keep that devastating fact tucked far away from their new beginning, hiding the past even from her new husband and demanding Zoe do the same.
Tonight Zoe is giving a recital that Maria has been planning for months. It needs to be the performance of her life. But instead, by the end of the evening, Maria is dead.
In the aftermath, everyone—police, family, Zoe’s former solicitor, and Zoe herself—tries to piece together what happened. But as Zoe knows all too well, the truth is rarely straightforward, and the closer we are to someone, the less we may see.
Unfolding over a span of twenty-four hours through three compelling narratives, The Perfect Girl is gripping, surprising, and emotionally complex—a richly layered look at loyalty, second chances, and the way secrets unravel us all.
I enjoyed reading The Perfect Girl. Let me throw it out there now, I wouldn’t make any comparison between this and The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl, as I’ve seen several times. Despite having the word “girl” in the title, this is decidedly less shocking than the other two.
Essentially a study of characters, their behavior, and relationships, The Perfect Girl has a small cast of characters, few settings, and a compressed feel that enhances the tension between them. What stands out for me, though, is that despite the exceptional circumstances, this book feels remarkably real. With characters acting in questionable ways and a morally ambiguous ending, this is an uncomfortable story that operates in shades of grey rather than black and white. If that isn’t lifelike, I don’t know what is.
“As usual, they’re wearing the too-bright expressions of parents who are disguising a level of ambition for their children that could choke you.”
“I don’t think Chris has ever touched me before. He’s careful, careful around me like he’s read a how-to manual on being a non-creepy stepfather.”
Told in multiple perspectives, the bulk of this story takes place over 24 hours, mixed in with flashbacks from three years prior and a script one of the characters wrote. Despite how confusing this sounds, I found it to be surprisingly well done. The way the viewpoints and storylines of now and then are intermingled drew the story out and made me even more curious about what happened.
A layered and complex novel, with writing that washes over you and pulls you in, The Perfect Girl was a compelling read. Definitely recommended.