Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review: 'The Perfect Girl' by Gilly Macmillan

Seventeen-year-old Zoe's Maisey's immaturity and poor judgment led her to make a tragic mistake three years earlier. She paid a high price for her actions and would like to put the past to rest. Zoe's dad left her and her mother, Maria, but now mum and daughter have become members of what Zoe cheekily calls a "Second Chance Family." Maria's husband is the handsome and well-to-do Chris Kennedy, who has a teenaged son of his own named Lucas. Lucas and Zoe are delighted with their cute baby stepsister, Grace. Unfortunately, unpleasant secrets have a tendency to emerge at the most inconvenient times. One evening, when Zoe and Lucas are playing the piano in concert, an agitated individual disrupts the proceedings with an outburst that threatens to derail Zoe and Maria's hopes for a fresh start.

Gilly Macmillan's "The Perfect Girl" is an absorbing look at an apparently close-knit family that is headed for trouble. There are multiple narrators, including Zoe, who is bright, sensitive, and talented; Tessa, Zoe's doting and compassionate aunt; Richard, Zoe's uncle, who suffers from chronic depression; Sam Locke, a sympathetic solicitor; and the aforementioned Lucas. The author, in a series of touching scenes, reveals that Zoe, while in therapy, learned about dealing with anger in an appropriate manner, the importance of owning up to one's responsibilities, and managing your own and other people's expectations.

This is a fast-paced work of fiction that changes gears abruptly after a surprising development adds a layer of uncertainty. The tension builds and, when we turn the final page, we are left to wonder whether justice has been served. This is a compelling novel that, one may reasonably argue, is a bit too contrived, overwrought, and implausible. In spite of one too many twists and turns, however, most readers will want to find out how this tangled mess will ultimately be resolved. Through the use of flashbacks, emails, an amateur film script, and a peek at the characters' innermost thoughts, we enter a troubled world where nothing is as clear-cut as it seems.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.