Review: The Perfectionists

The Perfectionists #1The Perfectionists #1 by Sara Shepard

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE BOOK:

This was the second read for my monthly Summer Book Club. I don’t think the boys in my group realised they voted for the sequel series to PLL, lol. Overall, the audiobook was pleasant to listen to (once you adjust to the Valley Girl narrator and terrible Australian accent). It was a bit confusing to distinguish the 5 girls, especially via audio, but eventually I decoded it. I strongly suggest you read this via audiobook, as I feel it adds to the tension and you can’t skim the page for (even accidental) spoilers.


CHARACTERS/DYNAMICS:

As my friend summarised the girls:
Ava, actual nerd
Kate, soccer nerd
Mack, music nerd
Julie, Teacher’s pet
Parker, hot topic nerd

But let’s go into more detail!
Nolan – the murder victim: Nolan was the biggest blackmailer and lil, arrogant shit to walk to the planet. How and why would adults allow him to hold so much power??? I’m not sure. If a child walked up to me and said “I’ve got nudes of you, and unless you want them to be shared across the entire school, you’ll do as I say”– I’d 1) Tell the police 2) Sue him. Easy as that. Nolan is incredibly rich and persuasive, but damn, I wish people knew there was protocol and protection (world-wide) for them. For any Australians reading, check out the eSafety Commissioner: https://www.esafety.gov.au/ They, for instance, will give the abuser (blackmailer) 24hrs to stop, and they check if they truly did delete the data etc. If not: the federal force gets involved.

Meet the Gang:
Ava: Half Iranian, half something else POC (sorry, I forgot– there’s 5 girls to keep track of!!!). She used to be a party girl, but after her mum died, she shaped up and worked on her grades. She miserably lives with her white-step mum, who has tried to erase her mother’s culture. Her motive for killing Nolan: (view spoiler)
Caitlin: Adopted Asian Baby for Gay Lesbian Mums. She’s super sporty, plays soccer, and heading straight to uni with a scholarship. She dates her equal in every way, Josh, who is one of two sons from her Lesbian Mums’ Friends. Her mums ship them quite happily, so Caitlin feels pressure to stay with Josh, even though… the younger brother (Jeremy) is suddenly not looking so bad. Her motive for killing Nolan: (view spoiler)
Mackenzie: Macks is a Music Geek. She plays the cello. She wants her bestie’s boyfriend. Her bestie is actually a snake in the grass, and they constantly compete. But suddenly, Macks doesn’t feel like she’s losing anymore, when the boyfriend (Blake) starts revealing some interesting secrets… Her motive for killing Nolan: (view spoiler)
Julie: Parker’s best friend. Pretty and popular. She’s got it all– except, she doesn’t let anybody visit her home… but why? Her motive for killing Nolan: (view spoiler)
Parker: Has-Been-IT-GIRL. After a terrible incident involving being drugged (without consent) and her father, she now lives with the scars everyday. Nobody can stand to look at her. So she hides. She turns into Miss Emo 2014, with the black hoodie and edgy smoking habits. Her motive for Killing Nolan: (view spoiler)

Other people/suspects:
Mr Granger: the one thing all of the girls have in common (besides hating Nolan, but everybody in the school shares that!) is their film studies teacher. He’s a creep. He’s a predator. And oh so charming. GAG. He was an excellent villain. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO SHEPARD AS A CHILD THAT HAS CLEARLY TRAUMATISED HER FOR ANY HEALTHY TEACHER-TO-STUDENT RELATIONSHIPS??? His motive for killing Nolan: (view spoiler)
Elliot: the psych/therapist/shrink (the girls use these terms interchangeably, despite these labels being very different positions). Like Mr Granger, he (an adult male), is totally predatory amongst teen girls and has evil undertones to his nature. As in: stalkerish and manipulative undertones. YUCK. It is crucial to note: he does not have a motive for killing Nolan. Yet. We have more to learn about Sir.
Alex: Ava’s boyfriend. He’s one-dimensional, until the last 30 pages of this story. I reckon he’s in kahoots with all the men in this town, ultimately helping the cause of abusing and preying on innocent women. This character is another who is not suspected for killing Nolan.
Blake: The boy Macks and her bestie, Claire, love. Except, he dates Claire. But does he really love her? Who cares, you’re going to watch it unfold anyway. Blake has no reason to be a suspect for killing Nolan.
Ashley: The biggest creep of them all. 100% single white female. If you don’t know what that is– look it up. Basically, Ashley wears and acts exactly like Julie. She somehow manages to wear the same outfit on the same day Julie is. She intrudes and stalks Julie to a breaking point. AND FOR WHAT? She also has no sustainable motive for killing Nolan, aside from wanting Julie to go down and her replacing Julie’s spot.

Where are the parents? Essentially absent. Where are the responsible teachers and other adults in their lives? Crucially absent.

AMERICANS, I NEED ANSWERS: Where I come from, a minor who is suspected for a crime and has an interview conducted, MUST HAVE PARENTAL CONSENT + A LAWYER PRESENT. Is that not the same for minors in America!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!


PLOT:

The biggest bitch (Nolan, and yes, he’s a boy… and a bitch) in all of Washington State hosts a big party. The five girls drug him and vandalise his face and take photos of him passed out. They leave and continue partying in the mansion– not soon after, somebody finds he’s dead. These girls are the prime suspects for Nolan’s death. All the while, they all have backstories going on in their personal lives, as well as preparing for the end of high school (eg college admissions).


STRUCTURE:

The book is written in third person, and flips around the five girls’ perspectives frequently. It starts with all their personal issues, and how Nolan played a role in each of their downfalls. Next, the police investigation occurs. Finally, we follow the girls as they try to find the real killer themselves, so they can save their own asses.


THEMES:

– Abuse and bullying
– Blackmail
– Domestic violence and tension
– Mental illness (hoarding, OCD, PTSD)
– Adoption
– Barely, but still present, LGBT and POC representation
– Identity and self-values


QUOTES:

“Memory was a tricky thing, but reality was even trickier. Once you made up your mind about something, it was hard to comprehend that the truth could be something else.”


THE ENDING:

YOU DO NOT FIND OUT WHO THE KILLER IS. YOU HAVE TO READ THE SECOND INSTALMENT. This is so, incredibly, typical PLL writing.


IMPACT:

This was a great, fast read. I recommend it for young YA readers, who want to see if they enjoy the Mystery/Thriller genre. I think this storyline is better than the Pretty Little Liars TV show. I now want to read the PLL book series, to see if it’s more cut-to-the-point and structured (with less loop-holes).