The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan is the suspenseful story of child prodigy Zoe Maisey. Several years ago Zoe was found responsible for the death of three of her peers. Zoe has since served her time, and finds herself trapped in secrecy in the “Second Chance Life” her mother, Maria, has built for them together with new stepfather Chris, stepbrother Lucas, and baby half-sister. The story starts with Zoey’s first post-incarceration performance. That same night tragedy strikes, and Maria is killed. Thus begins the harrowing suspense that is The Perfect Girl.
MacMillan successfully hooks readers with her use of captivating clues and powerful emotional reactions. The Perfect Girl puts a strong focus on family dynamics, loss, and redemption. The characters are intriguing and have depth beyond the core story. MacMillan’s skilled writing allows us a glimpse of why the characters react to the situation the way they do, and leaves us with an idea of their post-story “existence”.
The moral ambiguity of the characters is perfectly human; there are no black and white solutions to their troubles. I’d recommend this book for the characters alone, but luckily for readers the story holds up well too. Prepare to feel a high level of confusion regarding Lucas’s involvement in the tragic events, trepidation about Chris’s possible malevolence, and incredulity at Zoey’s parents in general.
While I found the slow reveal of Zoey’s backstory to be fantastic, I did feel that MacMillan gave us too much character depth in some cases, while not enough in others. You’ll find yourself wondering about Zoey’s innocence until the very end (and even after), while simultaneously wondering why we bothered learning about the health issues of her aunt Tessa’s lover.
The Perfect Girl starts and finishes on the same strong note. The ending is completely satsifying, if not entirely happy. Therefore, I definitely recommend adding The Perfect Girl to your reading list.