Review – The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan

The Perfect Girl

The Blurb

To everyone who knows her now, Zoe Maisey – child genius, musical sensation – is perfect.  Yet several years ago Zoe caused the death of three teenagers.  She served her time, and now she’s free. 

Her story begins with her giving the performance of her life.

By midnight, her mother is dead. 

The Perfect Girl is an intricate exploration into the mind of a teenager burdened by brilliance, and a past she cannot leave behind.

My Review

An unexplained, sudden death, a family full of secrets and a tragic event all add up to the compelling read that is The Perfect Girl.

Zoe is a gifted teenager who unfortunately, in the past, was involved in a tragic event when the car she was driving crashed, killing three of her ’friends’. At the start of the book, we discover that Zoe’s mother has died, we don’t know how or why. Through the narration of Zoe, her Aunt Tessa, solicitor Sam and later her Uncle Richard, we learn of the events leading up to her mother’s death and also the story of Zoe’s past.

Told over a twenty-four hour time period, we find out a lot about the family through close scrutiny and their thoughts and all is definitely not as it seems.

I felt an increasing unease about Zoe’s immediate family that slowly unfolded as the story progressed. They have created a façade to mask a controlling, unnatural environment. I really felt for Zoe and Lucas, who are unable to be ‘normal’ teenagers. The aftermath of Zoe’s crime has resulted in her mother hiding her true self to create a perfect life and gain back the security she lost. I didn’t know who could be trusted throughout as the secrets and lies prevail.

As well as been a cracking psychological thriller, The Perfect Girl raises issues such as the impact of pushy parents, bullying over social media, trying to fit in and the wide impact of a single, horrific event. It highlights that things are never black and white and the crime that Zoe committed certainly isn‘t. The moral issues that arise throughout the book certainly make you think. I was left feeling a sense of loss at the end of the novel over how we make decisions within our lives to ensure the wellbeing of others rather than what would be best for ourselves.

The Perfect Girl is well written with beautiful descriptions such as;

‘…and that those jaws were lined with stiletto-sharp teeth’

and I loved the butterfly analogies, which were stunning and wonderfully written.

Written in first person narrative, I found it a little difficult to differentiate between the characters narrating. Zoe does not come across as a teenager, however, given her experiences and the image she has to live up to she seems, in some respects, older than her years and then at other times immature. This didn’t, however, effect my enjoyment of the book and I was totally wrapped up in the story.

I really enjoyed The Perfect Girl, it has all the right ingredients of a compelling psychological thriller with the added bonus of giving you food for thought which makes you examine your moral compass. It would make a great book for a reading group.

Thank you to Gilly MacMillan, Little, Brown Book Group and Netaglley for the advance copy in exchange for a review.

Published on ebook 3 March 2016 by Little, Brown Book Group and paperback on 6 September 2016.

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