At the age of 14, Zoe Guerin was a genius piano prodigy at the local private school on a scholarship, working hard to fit in and be normal. And then she drives when she shouldn’t have (she’s 14!), and the ensuing accident leads to the death of her three passengers.
After serving her time, Zoe’s mother, Maria, has done her best to move the two of them into a new life. She divorces Zoe’s dad and took her to a new city (Bristol), where she meets a marries a new man. We meet this new family three years later. Zoe is now Zoe Maisey, living with Maria, stepfather Chris, stepbrother Lucas (also a piano prodigy), and new baby sister. She is doing her best to stay perfect for what she and her mother call their Second Chance Life.
And perfect is what she and her mother strive to be. Perfect McMansion perfectly decorated. Perfect food. Perfectly dressed. Just absolutely perfect.
And, as part of the perfect, Zoe’s mother insists that they not discuss the past. Not even with their new family.
The book opens with she Lucas putting on a concert. What they don’t know is that family of one of the victims has also moved to Bristol to start over, only to see a flyer of the performance. Unable to believe that his daughter is dead and Zoe is still playing, he confronts them at the concert.
And then at home.
Zoe and Maria are forced to tell the truth about her past.
And, in the morning, Zoe’s mother is found dead.
Told from alternating voices, The Perfect Girl is an addictive page turner.
The secrets seem to keep coming from all sides, from every narrator. All seem to have secrets that keep cropping up, making the story that much more delicious.
Zoe overreacts a bit following her mother’s death, immediately going to her lawyer, but she’s nervous, which is understandable. Throughout her first problems, Zoe maintained her innocence in how much she drank (it seems her drinks were spiked), only to be lied about during her trial. She was also betrayed in small and big ways during her time incarcerated, making her wary of everyone and everything.
Her stepfather Chris is a piece of work, and, from the beginning, it seems like he is at the least verbally abusive. Just the way Maria acts around him is a huge red light.
And then there is Lucas, who used his love of screenwriting to write a script staring his mother (who died of a brain tumor) and his father. He sends the script to Zoe and her mother, but asks Zoe to delete it after her mother’s death (she doesn’t).
The Perfect Girl would be a great Hallmark movie, with secrets reveled or hinted to before every commercial break.
The characters were pretty well developed, especially Zoe. I’m not sure how much I liked her, but I did feel for her. None of the characters are beyond reproach, and all are very human. This makes them likable and unlikable at the same time–just like most people in the world.
Shifting voices adds to the tension and surprise in The Perfect Girl. Zoe and her past, which she holds very close to her chest. Tessa, her aunt, and her understanding of the story. Sam, her lawyer, and his involvement. Even Tessa’s husband Richard, and his efforts to stop drinking.
Everything is a little contrived and really DRAMATIC, but still a lot of fun. And the end seems cut and dried, until it isn’t. The twists and surprises are what make this book fun suspense.
I give this one 4 stars. This is an interesting, well-plotted, tense psychological thriller that you won’t be able to put down.