Title: The Perfect Girl
Author: Gilly MacMillan
Publisher: Little Brown Group (UK)
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. It’s a story about the wrongs in our past not letting go and how hard we must fight for second chances.
This book has a way of drawing you in from pretty much the first page onwards. I was intrigued – to find out what happened to Zoe’s mother, what had happened in the past with her mother’s new husband and her step-brother, what was going to happen… it was all a mystery, and an interesting one at that!
The Perfect Girl has an interesting narrative structure: it introduces the reader to a scene in which Zoe’s performance at a concert is interrupted by a man shouting about her – though we don’t know why – and then we find out that by midnight Zoe’s mother will be dead. All very dramatic and intriguing! The story then rewinds back to the days leading up to this day, told from several different perspectives which helps to build the story, and it includes plenty of memories of the many years before. I often really enjoy novels that jump around like this; I know plenty of people who don’t, but I do and I think Gilly Macmillan has crafted this novel really well.
The characters are all interesting and feel convincing, though some we find out more about than others as get their side of the story and therefore ‘see inside their head’. It is really interesting to see how everyone reacts in different ways to a crisis, and the way people can start to suspect one another. Of course, one of the main mysteries in the book is surrounding who killed Zoe’s mother – there are only a limited number of people it could be, so who is lying and who’s being completely honest? I love books which make you question everyone, and this book does it so well.
Though it is tense at times, the story doesn’t really make you feel on edge as such; it’s more of a slow burning unease around some of the characters and the way that someone’s past mistakes can come back to haunt them, even if they’ve ‘started again’ – and can you ever really ‘start again’?
The Perfect Girl has its fair share of surprises but they all feel well within the realms of possibility, and some parts you can imagine happening all too well, unfortunately. It is emotional and upsetting at times, but never overly so; the author gets the tone just right, in my opinion. I didn’t really want to stop reading and zipped through it. I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it!