Zoe Maisey tries to escape from her painful past where she caused the death of three teenagers. As a talented pianist she wants to start her Second Chance Life by giving the performance of her life. Yet, it all gets complicated as her past finds her. And by the end of the day, her mom is found dead...
In The Perfect Girl Gilly Macmillan builds up a compelling story of a troubled teenager who desperately wants to start over and forget what she did. Macmillan skillfully depicts Zoe's fragile personality and so a reader easily falls for her. The problem begins when Macmillan introduces another narrator of the story. And after that another two. As soon as the tale of one of the characters builds up the essential tension it is cut off by another narrator. In other words, Macmillan creates too many storytellers whose tales cause that the whole novel becomes incoherent.
It's been secret for so long that I feel like I don't really have a vocabulary for it any more. (The Perfect Girl, page 258)
Broadly speaking, The Perfect Girl has a good plot. However, Macmillan does not manage to fully develop it. The reader drifts among characters so quickly (sometimes after two or three pages of the book) that he gradually looses interest in all of them. Greek philosopher Aristotle came up with the idea of the classical unities: the unity of action, time and place. The Perfect Girl, set in two days and mainly in two places, meets with the unity of time and place. Nevertheless, Macmillan should have taken more out the unity of action which says that 'a play/plot should have only one action and minimal subplots'. Essentially, it is not a problem to use more than one narrator. It offers more points of view and builds up the sense of tension which is obvious in books such as Frankenstein, My Husband's Secret or The Girl on the Train. Yet, it is important to link all these narrators and give them a purpose of being in the story. Which does not entirely happen in this case. For example, Sam's character is interesting in the beginning of the novel. However, he becomes irritating as it becomes obvious that his appearance has no crucial meaning. In addition, two storylines (Sam's disease, and the relationship between Zoe and Lucas) are not even properly explained nor finished. Moreover, the anticipated final lacks tension and the reader just wants to find out who murdered Zoe's mom and finally get over the whole book.
The Perfect Girl has a big potential. And the first part of the book underlines this potential even more. Nevertheless, it feels like Gilly Macmillan wants to combine too much in one book. Too many narrators of one relatively short story undermine the promising story. The book is easy to read and it is an interesting story for your holiday. However, do not expect another Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, as it promises on the cover of the book.